Preliminary deal approved for better mental health care at NBC’s Santa Rita Jail – Bay Area


U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins ​​has preliminary approved a settlement in a federal class action lawsuit against Alameda County regarding mental health care at Santa Rita Prison in Dublin and elsewhere Alameda County Jail.

The cousins ​​approved the settlement on a preliminary basis in a virtual hearing at 11 a.m. Wednesday before lawyers for both sides.

“I am inclined to approve the settlement,” Cousins ​​told lawyers and others at the hearing.

The judge also agreed to extend the date for final approval to January 19. The hearing for final approval was previously set for December 15. The extension of the deadline will give lawyers more time to inform incarcerated people of the agreement and more. time for people to raise objections to the settlement if they wish.

The regulations will require radical changes to the prison, not only for people with psychiatric disorders, but for those in prison in general. Changes will be made over the next two years and the agreement will be in effect for six years, depending on progress.

In addition to mental health care, changes will be made to out-of-cell time, ADA accommodations at the prison for people with mental disorders, the use of force, release planning and, among other things, prevention of suicide.

Recent suicides in prison prompted the trial. Nineteen people have committed suicide since 2014 and 31 others have died in prison from other causes. Fifty dead is a lot for a prison with a population the size of Santa Rita, lawyers for those incarcerated in Santa Rita have said.

Lawyer Jeff Bornstein, one of the attorneys representing those incarcerated at the prison, said significant changes need to be made and are underway.

Already, far fewer people are in restrictive housing, he said.

But, he said, “We have a long way to go.”

“We are cautiously optimistic,” he said.

The goal is to make things right at the prison rather than just meet the minimum requirements for the treatment of people incarcerated there, Bornstein said.

He said it would be great if people with mental illness didn’t have to go to jail at all.

An important issue addressed in the agreement is how incarcerated people are treated when released. In the past, people in prison have been sent back to the streets.

Under the regulations, incarcerated people with serious mental health issues will benefit from a “warm passage” to community providers who can help secure the necessary resources for those formerly incarcerated when they are released.

In addition to providing adequate mental health care, the agreement provides for adequate out-of-cell time each day, including an increase in out-of-cell time in the first three months of the agreement.

The agreement also includes measures to prevent suicide and self-harm among incarcerated people, including limiting the use of security cells, a small room with nothing but a grid in the floor. The county will build suicide-resistant cells as part of the deal and limit use and hopefully safety cells, Bornstein said.

A total of seven major changes are planned for those incarcerated at the prison. Progress at the prison will be monitored by experts and joint neutral lawyers.

“Our agency is in full support and agreement,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly said. “This is a broad process that will make our prison safer for staff and those in detention while meeting the specific needs of our population.

“The agreement will bring much-needed improvements and resources to our criminal justice system in Alameda County,” he said.

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