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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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LePriest Valentine

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."

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