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The Sheriff’s Department and the United States Department of Justice announced on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, a joint settlement agreement that will support a holistic approach to overall reform in the nation’s largest jail system.
The provisions under this agreement define specific corrective actions but also for the first time implement a coordinated multi-department county-wide systemic approach that supports continuous improvements in the Custody Division. These vital improvements include a closely coordinated team approach between Custody staff, Department of Mental Health (DMH) clinicians and medical services working in partnership across the continuum of inmate care, from Intake and assessment of needs, crisis intervention, suicide prevention and upgrades in suicide risk procedures, critical incident reviews, safety checks, referrals, and follow-up and transition back in to community.
“The agreement announced today is an opportunity to move beyond the challenges of the past and build on progress already underway; it is our promise not simply to the Department of Justice, but to our entire community,” explained Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “Working with the federal government, County leaders and outside experts, our Custody Division will continue to implement corrective actions that will lead to more positive outcomes for incarcerated individuals suffering from serious mental illness, a safer environment for inmates as well as personnel who work in our jails, and enhanced policies and practices that will ensure the humane and constitutional treatment of those in our charge who eventually return to our community.” (Sheriff McDonnell’s full statement on the agreement is available atwww.lasd.org).
“The key difference in this agreement is having a sustainable plan,” added Terri McDonald, Assistant Sheriff, Custody Division. “We have created the partnerships and received the resources necessary to implement what we hope and expect will be a national model of custodial care.”
More than 500 additional LASD staff positions were funded to provide more frequent safety checks. Over 160 additional Department of Mental Health (DMH) positions were funded to contact, assess and provide treatment. 19 LASD staff positions were funded to work with DMH clinicians as joint roving teams within custody to contact inmates and identify persons with mental illness.
Dr. Marvin Southard, Director of the Department of Mental Health added, “Today’s agreement between the County and the Department of Justice will allocate the resources and provide clear benchmarks to provide the best mental health care possible within the limitations of these facilities and to connect that care to community resources so that recovery can be sustained as people return home.”
The Sheriff’s Department’s efforts will include implementing significant measures of training and accountability that will facilitate enhanced recognition of mental illness; responding to and tracking inmate requests for medical and mental health services; and continuing to work with the ACLU to provide direct access for inmates to an independent organization to report grievances.
The LASD is also developing alternatives to custody for the mentally ill in conjunction with the Board of Supervisors, District Attorney Jackie Lacey and the Los Angeles Superior Courts.