THE ISSUE OF LOCKING AWAY MENTALLY ILL IN LA COUNTY JAILS
LA Times’ Steve Lopez paid a visit Monday to LA County’s Twin Towers jail where 3,200 mentally ill inmates are housed—1,300 of whom are overflowing into the jail’s general population because there isn’t enough segregated space in which to place them. Lopez notes that the majority cycle back through the system after being released because the resources to help them on the outside are so limited. Lopez questions whether the new jail plans being considered by the LA County Board of Supervisors address the real issue, or if we will just see more of the same problems, but in a shiny, state-of-the-art building.
Here are some clips from Lopez’s LA Times story:
If you routinely hear voices, hallucinate, sink into suicidal depression or suffer inescapable torment, Los Angeles has a place for you.
The county jail.
On Monday, the jail held 3,200 inmates diagnosed with a mental illness and accused of a crime. Most have not been to trial, many have waited months for their day in court, and the majority have cycled through at least once before. There’s no longer enough room to house them all in segregated areas, so 1,000 mentally ill men and 300 women are housed with the general population.
Clearly, locking these men up over and over again isn’t working, and it isn’t cheap. But it’s what the system has been doing for years in Los Angeles County and in jails and prisons across the country.
Therapists know it. Judges know it, because they see the same offenders churn through their courtrooms, many of them for drug possession and minor offenses in which the underlying cause is often a mental illness. And jailers surely know it, though the problem is not of their making or of any other single agency’s.
“We’re on the same page here,” sheriff’s Cmdr. David Fender said Monday when I met with him and mental health officials at the jail. “The entire leadership” of the Sheriff’s Department “believes we’ve got to do something about this.”
No doubt, so what’s the plan?
The county Board of Supervisors is pushing ahead, after years of delay, with plans to update jail facilities in hopes of fending off possible federal intervention following myriad reports of inmate abuse and deplorable conditions. Earlier this year, the supes hired a consultant to make proposals for demolishing the dungeon-like Men’s Central Jail, building a new facility in its place and updating other detention centers. At Tuesday’s board meeting, five proposals were aired, including construction of a jail devoted entirely to inmates with medical and mental health problems.
But would that be a new direction, or the same failed strategy in a new and improved building? Even when inmates get counseling and meds in jail, the majority of them leave with no long-term recovery plan or supervision on the outside, so guess where they end up.
(By the way, you can chat with Steve Lopez live today, July 18th, at 9:00a.m. about his tour of Twin Towers.)
STATE ADVOCATES PUSH FOR INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT OF FACILITIES FOR DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED
Advocates for the developmentally disabled rallied Wednesday at the capitol requesting Gov. Brown declare a state of emergency within California’s care facilities for the developmentally disabled. He is urged to appoint an Czar to provide independent oversight after a report was released last week revealing deficiencies in investigations of patient abuse, among other issues.
AP’s Laura Olson has the story. Here’s a small clip:
Advocates for Californians with developmental disabilities are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint an independent official to improve safety at state-run care facilities.
Dozens gathered at the state capitol Wednesday urging the governor to shut down four residential centers run by the Department of Development Services. In a letter delivered to the governor’s office, advocates say a new safety official is needed to ensure residents are safe from abuse.
LA POLICE UNION SAYS WORKPLACE MEDIATION PROGRAM IS A GREAT IDEA
The Los Angeles Police Protective League—the LAPD’s union—has thrown their support behind a mediation program recommended in a recent audit from the LAPD Inspector General. The program was devised by the LAPD, city attorneys and LAPPL officials to address workplace conflict at the source and reduce the excessive amount of money flowing out of the department due to officer lawsuits, but it has yet to be implemented. (Let’s hope that it happens soon, and maybe the LASD will follow suit.)
Here’s a clip from the LAPPL’s announcement:
We urge the Police Commission to act swiftly to give final approval to the program called for in the Inspector General’s audit that would utilize independent lawyers with expertise in employment litigation to serve as mediators chosen from a mutually agreeable panel. The mediators would be given authority to remedy workplace conflicts to both parties’ satisfaction.
Without such a system in place, many LAPD officers find themselves in untenable workplace situations where their only viable option is to file a civil case against the Department. They cannot simply file a personnel complaint against a supervisor because too often that leads to the officer being labeled a troublemaker when he/she goes through the internal review system. Far too many officers have seen the tables turned on them and become victims of the system, often leading to substantially increased civil payouts.