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Criminal Justice

Why Were LA Jail Health Care Workers Rallying?

A row of pay phones stands on the corner outside the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.
Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.
(Andrew Cullen for LAist)
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Health care workers rallied in front of Men’s Central Jail Wednesday to call attention to what they say are inhumane conditions for incarcerated people.

Nurse practitioners, psychologists and others who care for the roughly 13,000 people inside L.A. County jails are asking a federal judge to conduct an unannounced tour of Men’s Central Jail. The action came just a few weeks before a hearing in which the same federal judge is slated to decide whether the county is in contempt of court for failing to improve conditions at the jail complex downtown.

The backstory

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Dr. Timothy Belavich, director of Correctional Health Services, said Monday that roughly one-quarter of the 2,000 budgeted jail health care positions are unfilled.

LAist’s review of coroner's records found 2021 marked the highest number of deaths by suicide inside the downtown jail complex in eight years.

The rise in suicide deaths comes at a time when the L.A. County Jail system is plagued by a number of issues: facilities are overcrowded, jail officials are struggling to maintain a mental health workforce and the jails are out of compliance with court-mandated requirements.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson is scheduled to preside over a contempt hearing scheduled for June 27. Attorneys with the ACLU are asking the judge to hold the county in contempt for failing to improve what the ACLU calls “abysmal” conditions at the Inmate Reception Center.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.

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