Feds Should Delay Action on Jails to After Nov. Election


Citing a dramatic increase in suicides in Los Angeles County jails, federal officials have rejected the county’s efforts to keep control of its beleaguered jail system.

A Sept. 25 letter to the county from the U.S. Department of Justice, states that despite some progress being made in how the county addresses the mental health issues of inmates, the justice department remains “concerned about the sustainability and future durability of the reforms” now in place.

Federal officials were monitoring county jails for 12 years as part of agreement requiring improvements in services for mentally ill prisoners, estimated to be as many as 1,000.

Those concerns along with the increases in inmate suicides, have led to federal authorities saying they will move forward with seeking a court-ordered consent decree giving the justice department oversight authority of the jails.

Such an order would likely cost the county millions of dollars to implement.

We believe the justice department should hold off implementing the consent decree until after the November election, when county residents will elect a new Sheriff and one more new member of the Board of Supervisors. A second new supervisor, Hilda Solis was elected during the primary election.

A new sheriff   will be able to work with federal officials to develop a comprehensive and acceptable plan for bringing about improvements. It makes more sense to have the new sheriff and county supervisors fully invested in the plan, if things are to change.

Delaying the implementation does not rid the feds of their authority to force the county to improve how it deals with mentally ill inmates. They will still have the power of the federal government if the county fails to make satisfactory progress.

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