In Major Step to Help End the Jail-to-Homelessness Cycle, Court Denies LA County's Motion to End Case on Jails Discharge
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MAY 20, 2016--In a key decision under the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act on behalf of the mentally disabled homeless, Judge Dean D. Pregerson denied the County's motion for judgment on the pleadings, allowing a group of mentally disabled and homeless former inmates of LA County Jails to proceed with their action to change how the LA County jails discharge inmates with mental disabilities.
The Intervenors, represented by Public Counsel and Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, claim that the jail discharge planning provisions of the settlement agreement in United States of America vs. County of Los Angeles and Sheriff Jim McDonnell (Case No. 15-cv-05903) fail adequately to accommodate and address the needs of mentally disabled prisoners under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and violate the U.S. Constitution. The Intervenors are seeking changes to the discharge planning provision of the settlement because it does not provide them with meaningful access to essential mental health, medical, and social services upon discharge from jail.
"Intervenors have then been released onto the streets, often in a more vulnerable, less stable state than when they entered the jail system," said Judge Pregerson in his ruling. "Certain inmates are released... in a manner that allows them to access state services, programs, and activities. Intervenors, whose manner of release is allegedly determined by their particular disabilities, are not afforded that same access."
The failure to provide adequate discharge planning perpetuates the Skid Row to jail cycle and exacerbates homelessness in Los Angeles, which is already at emergency levels. The Intervenors will seek to modify the settlement to ensure that meaningful discharge planning is provided to all mentally disabled individuals when they are released from County jails.
"The court's ruling offers real hope that something positive can be done to end the Skid Row to Jail cycle that creates and perpetuates homelessness in our community," said Mark Rosenbaum, directing attorney, Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law. "The bottom line is a clear one: the mentally disabled don't belong on our streets or in our jails. They belong in housing with access to needed services. That would be a victory for all of us."
- Los Angeles Times, "Judge lets homeless ex-inmates fight for mental health services," by Gale Holland, May 18.
- MyNewsLA.com, "Fed court order to LA: Don't set mentally ill inmates free without advance help," by Hillary Jackson, Dec. 16
- Patch, "L.A. Judge Orders Policy Change on Discharging Mentally Ill Jail Inmates," by Mirna Alfonso, Dec. 16
- Los Angeles Daily News, "Judge orders changes to L.A. County jail inmate discharge policy," by City News Service, Dec. 1
- Los Angeles Times, "Essential California Newsletter: Mentally Ill Inmates," by Alice Walton, Nov. 24
- Take Two on KPCC 89.3, "Attorneys press LA jails for better access to mental health services," featuring Alisa Hartz, Nov. 24
- KPCC 89.3 & KQED, "Lawsuit seeks more help for mentally ill jail inmates," by Frank Stoltze, Nov. 23
- Los Angeles Daily News, "LA judge hears arguments over support services for newly discharged jail inmates," by Fred Shuster, Nov.23
- MyNewsLA.com, "Court battle: Don't release jailed mentally ill to Skid Row overnight," by Debbie L. Sklar, Nov. 23
- City News Service, "Lawsuit Challenges Jail Release," Oct. 1
- Los Angeles Times, "Ex-inmates want L.A. County to stop dumping mentally ill inmates on skid row," by Abby Sewell and Cindy Chang, Sept. 29
- Associated Press, "Mentally ill, homeless former inmates file legal action in Los Angeles County settlement," in San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Houston Chronicle, The Washington Times and more by Amanda Lee Myers, Sept. 28
- KABC, "Former LA County Jail Inmates File Lawsuit Over Post-Release Help," by Mayde Gomez, Sept. 28
- MyNewsLA.com, "Dangerous times for mentally ill: Lawsuit seeks ban on jail releases in overnight hours," by Hillary Jackson, Sept. 28
- May 17, 2016 - Court Denies Plaintiff Motion for Judgment (PDF)
- Dec. 16, 2015 - Press Release on Ruling Granting Motion to Intervene (PDF)
- Dec. 16, 2015 - Court Ruling Grants Motion to Intervene (PDF)
- Nov. 23, 2015 - FAQ about the Case (PDF)
- Sept. 28, 2015 - Press Release Announcing the Case (PDF)