The following is a press release from an organization unaffiliated with Voice of OC. The views expressed here are not those of Voice of OC.
January 23, 2018
Contact: Tom Dominguez, President
Jail Lawsuit Update
Inadequate conditions in the Central Men’s Jail (CMJ) were brought to light more clearly than ever when three dangerous inmates planned and executed an elaborate escape and remained on the run for eight days in January, 2016. Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of AOCDS members, Department staff and our partner law enforcement agencies, these escapees were apprehended before any serious harm was done to members of the public.
The archaic conditions, reduced sworn staff levels and lack of appropriate equipment had been brought to the attention of Sheriff’s management by AOCDS and jail staff over the years leading up to the jailbreak, but little, if anything, had been done to address the situation by what was then a revolving door of Department managers. As a result, on February 11, 2016, the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department based on the unsafe working environment arising from staffing issues. Given the severity of this safety concern, AOCDS felt compelled to take legal action in an attempt to remedy the situation and restore a safe and appropriate working environment for its members in the jails.
We have been working with the Department to address these dangerous conditions and mend the situation as the case has proceeded through the litigation process. We have now reached an agreement with the Department that will hopefully provide a clear path to implement jail staffing and security reforms, which will increase the safety and security of the public, jail personnel and our deputies.
We are pleased that the Sheriff’s Department agreed to meet with us regarding this lawsuit and work collaboratively to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. It is our belief that Sheriff Barnes and his staff share our desire to staff our jail facilities and patrol areas adequately at a ratio comparable to accepted industry standards. AOCDS looks forward to working with the Sheriff to maximize the safety of the public and our deputies.
This agreement is in no way intended to suggest that existing problems in our jail facilities have been adequately addressed or remedied. It is simply an agreement that marks the beginning of holding the department accountable and identifies steps we intend to take, which the department has agreed to, in order to address these issues in a professional and thoughtful manner. This agreement will help ensure our jails are run and managed in a way that is consistent with current industry standards acceptable to the Orange County taxpayer.
Recent statistics released on Orange County jail assaults show that since AB-109 went into effect in 2011, inmate versus staff attacks have gone up 279%. The civilianization of the jails that was instituted before AB-109 has also had a direct impact on our jail safety. We have seen this first-hand in recent weeks when dozens of inmates attacked five deputies at Central Men’s Jail (CMJ) on December 20th and another inmate stabbed a deputy at Theo Lacy Jail on January 12th in an unprovoked attack involving an improvised edged weapon or “shank.” In both cases, the deputies were treated at area hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries. AOCDS and Department managers responded to both locations following the attacks.
We also see staffing issues in patrol operations, where it is our understanding that patrol shifts are often left unfilled. The ability to respond to critical incidents across the board has been impacted in OCSD contract cities and unincorporated areas.
The following is a summary of the terms and conditions detailed in this agreement:
LACK OF STAFFING
- The County/Department agrees that it has already returned staffing levels to what they had been prior to the reduction on 1/21/16. They have also added four Sergeant positions and two Lieutenant positions to enhance jail supervision.
- The parties agree to meet and discuss minimum staffing levels for the jail facilities prior to or no later than six months following the settlement of this lawsuit.
- The County/Department agrees that several of the facility improvements previously outlined in the Facility Improvements Document have been completed since the filing of the lawsuit. Specifically, all aspects of the “Staffing” section in the document have been completed and are operational.
EXECUTIVE COMMAND ACCOUNTABILITY
- The County/Department agrees that Department staff will give notification to the Sheriff, Undersheriff and/or Assistant Sheriff of any proposed changes to existing hours of work. After that notification, the County/Department will give AOCDS reasonable notice and an opportunity to meet and confer regarding the proposed changes to the existing hours of work.
- The County/Department agrees that if the County/Department decides to implement a reduction of staff in the future, then the County/Department will give AOCDS reasonable notice and an opportunity to meet and confer regarding the effects of the staffing reduction. Any reductions in staff must be approved by the Sheriff, Undersheriff and/or Assistant Sheriff.
- The parties agree to meet quarterly to discuss working conditions at the jail facilities.
- The parties agree to a joint safety and equipment review every six months.
- The County/Department agrees that the below list of uncompleted facility improvements will be completed within one year of signing the agreement:
- Complete installation of the RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) inmate tracking system at CMJ; and
- Complete installation of the portable camera system in the housing and plumbing tunnels, and transition areas at CMJ.
We have scheduled our first meeting with the Department on February 27, 2019.
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