A judge found the invasiveness of the strip searches — that the women had to expose their genitals in large groups, without any privacy — violated their 4th Amendment rights. The settlement comes amid a shift in philosophy about mass incarceration and at a time when women for the first time ever hold four of the five seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The change on the board has come with increasingly progressive stances, especially on issues that affect women in the criminal justice system.
The board has recently pushed to recruit more women to county agencies and to implement more vocational training for women and female youths incarcerated in county facilities. The county does not admit wrongdoing and said in the settlement that the agreement was to avoid the cost of further litigation.
But the jail has since started using body scanners and privacy curtains to conduct body cavity searches.
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Barry Litt, an attorney representing the inmates, said the stories of the women who endured the strip searches are reflective of a rampant culture of abuse that has persisted in the jail for years. The settlement applies to more than 93, women incarcerated between March and January The most intrusive search conditions were in place before July , and the least intrusive conditions occurred after February , when officials enclosed the bus bay and kept it heated.
They began using a scanner later that year. Privacy partitions were made available starting early in The strip searches were conducted in groups of 20 to 60 people, sometimes more, according to court documents. In , the jail implemented a new policy limiting strip searches to groups of 24, court documents show. During one part of the search, inmates were ordered to bend over and spread their genitalia with their hands — in full view of other inmates — so deputies could inspect their bodies.
In one search, a woman expelled her IUD. Those who were menstruating were told to remove their tampons, which left them bleeding on themselves and the ground. Battles, who has interviewed hundreds of women in the case, said the way they were treated by deputies is what has left the most permanent damage. The plaintiffs alleged that deputies made disparaging and degrading comments laced with profanity, the filing said.
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They criticized women for their pubic hair or body odor. When deputies thought a woman smelled bad, they sometimes sprayed Lysol or air freshener on her body.
Los Angeles County Arrest, Court and Public Records
During her first search, Almaraz said, she removed the wrong garment by mistake. A deputy yelled a profanity at her, asking her whether she was stupid. Almaraz said she was searched each time she returned from a court appearance, and never saw deputies recover any contraband. She tried to tell deputies that she carried hepatitis, but they did not make an effort to clean up the feces. Litt said hundreds of inmates described the lot as dirty, with trash strewn across the ground, overflowing garbage bins and piles of leaking trash bags.
And increasing numbers, they say, have chronic diseases and mental illnesses that are difficult — and expensive — to treat. Not doing so amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The number of deaths is trending downward in Los Angeles County jails along with the overall inmate population, and one decrepit old jail is going to be torn down and replaced with a facility dedicated to mental health.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Inmate Telephone Information
Riverside County is making systemic changes in how sick inmates are cared for and has more than tripled how much it spends on inmate health services. San Bernardino County has begun adding desperately needed programs for the mentally ill. Traditionally, county jails only housed inmates who were just arrested, waiting for trial or serving short misdemeanor sentences. Almost no one was there for more than a year. Most got out within hours or days of being booked. Realignment has improved conditions in the state prisons, experts say.
But that percentage shrank and the share of inmates who were convicted felons jumped almost instantly after realignment took effect.
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Today, about one-quarter of jail inmates are there because of AB, give or take by county. Officials say they see more violence, gang problems and smuggled-in drugs. Health-wise, the population is also getting older with more substance-abuse problems, mental illness and chronic diseases. Russell had been sentenced to six months in jail followed by probation for a felony domestic violence case and a misdemeanor case of driving under the influence of drugs, court records show.
His health crisis began late on Jan. As it worsened over the next 12 hours, his chest pain rose to the top of the pain scale, 10 out of It radiated to his arm and jaw. His hands, feet and then both arms went numb.
He continued vomiting until the spasms turned to dry heaves. In his first four visits to nurses, he was given antacids for the nausea; a referral to a mental health assessment, where a physician instructed him in breathing exercises for anxiety; and nitroglycerine and Motrin for his pain. Each time he was sent back to his cell. On his fifth visit, he was kept in the medical ward for two hours.
When a nurse saw him gasping for air, staff finally summoned paramedics. It was too late. The year-old was pregnant when she went to jail that January on suspicion of shooting at an inhabited dwelling.
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