Inmates Claim County is Depriving Them of Basic Medical and Mental Health Care - Similar Lawsuits Expected to be Filed as Counties Adjust to Realignment Impacts

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Inmates in the Riverside County jails served a federal class-action lawsuit last week, claiming the county is subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment by depriving them of basic medical and mental health care. Among other allegations, the complaint specifically alleges the county fails to identify serious health care conditions, provide timely care, administer appropriate medications, employ adequate staff and maintain adequate records. The inmates seek a court order requiring county officials to correct the alleged deficiencies.

More lawsuits are expected to be filed in California while counties adjust to the growing challenges stemming from the state’s public safety realignment legislation (AB 109 & AB 117). Signed into law in 2011, realignment sought to stem overcrowding in state prisons by shifting responsibility for those convicted of nonviolent, non-serious and non-sex crimes to county custody. Increasing jail populations associated with the realignment may strain staffing resources and facility capabilities. In addition, increased sentences may require the implementation of more sophisticated health care programs addressing chronic diseases and other long-term health care problems.

The inmates in the Riverside County case are represented by, among others, the Prison Law Office, which has previously succeeded in challenging unconstitutional deprivations of health care in California’s statewide prison system. The Prison Law Office also represents inmates in similar class action lawsuits against Fresno County and the State of Arizona.

For questions regarding this case, public safety realignment or their implications for your county or public agency, please contact Jared Goldman -- who serves as chief counsel for the receiver of the California prison medical system -- in the firm’s Health Care practice group or your BB&K attorney.