Issues in California Jail Administration
Select a State in the US and examine their jail (NOT PRISON) system.
Select one of the following types of inmate issues (mental health, substance abuse, housing, immigration, or medical):
1) The extent of the problem they are experiencing in their jails including current data
2) Method(s) being used to address the demand on their jail populations/detention rate
3) How the method(s) meet the needs of the detainee/community and alleviate the
demands on its facilities
4) Your opinion on the method being used
Issues in California Jail Administration
In the last forty years, the rate of jail lock-up has grown dramatically in California. California criminal justice system is the most affected during the pandemic due to overcrowding and lack of proper inmate care (Molina, 2019). Today, California is looking for ways to avoid the spread of COVOD-19 virus in jails. According to the Bureau of justice statistics, Eighty- two thousand inmates are locked in California local jails. The high jail population has been promoted by pre-trial policies where the high population stands out internationally. Compared to other states, California State comes second from the United States with five hundred and eighty-one inmates per one hundred thousand population.
Additionally, people of color are positively presented in California jails, for instance, the black, Hispanic, and Alaska natives. Compared to the whites. The state has proposed a realignment to change the jail system by financing the project to reduce county jails’jails’ overcrowding. According to an investigating carried out by McClatchy, the jail section is weak, violence and inmate conflicts go unchecked, and county jails lack methods of handling mentally ill inmates (Molina, 2019). Based on reports, inmates are taken to the same cell with mentally ill or psychotic inmates. Many inmates have died in jails without a follow-up activity after being struggled to death. The jail system receives three inmate bookings within forty-eight hours, all jailed for different reasons in one cell. Some inmates abuse drugs in the cell, commit suicide or go through medical complications without police intervention.
The realignment strategy meant to reduce state prison by shifting the inmates to county jails has made the jails deadly and unbearable. The rate of violence and mentally ill people in jail ha increased, leading to more deaths daily. The concrete cube houses almost three-thousand people, increasing the rate of violence, mental illness, and poor hygienic conditions (Molina, 2019). The most affected county jails include Fresno, Merced, and Kern. The police officers do not prioritize well-being, which has led to many deaths and mentally ill inmates. For example, inmates enter the facilities with weapons, such as razor blades in nasal cavities, due to lack of strict supervision during entry. Sheriffs spend a meager amount of money on inmates’ safety and health, influenced by a high population and insufficient funds. The sheriff’s neglect inmates, to the extent of not noticing a sick o isolated inmate in jail.
Mental Health Issue
Mental illness is one of the significant issues affecting California inmate due to overcrowding, Sheriffs’ negligence, and poor living conditions in jail. The mental illness caused by the long period spent in jails waiting for pre-trials where inmates may take months in solitary. The isolation and long periods have made most inmates attempt suicide and self-harm. The poor conditions in jail, surrounded by walls, sitting on a yoga mat, lack of counseling, or any intervention, affect inmates’ mental condition (Dorfman, 2020). The isolation rooms were primarily designed to reduce deaths and suicide but have increased suicide cases. For instance, Kern county jail efforts to move inmates into a closet-sized isolation room. Also, the realignment of moving inmates from state prison to county jails has influenced the rate of mentall illness. The county jail standards have failed to cater to inmates, especially offering mental and physical counselling. The use of yoga mats instead of mattresses has affected the mental conditioning inmates in jails. Despite inmates’ effort to disregard and propose mattresses, the sheriff’s office still buys more yoga mats for inmates, leading to more suicide cases in Kern county jail. Kern county jail records the highest suicide rate due to the use of suicide watch rooms aggressively (Molina, 2019).
Extent of the Problem
The state of California phone justice has affected the inmate’s mental stability, where inmates get charged for making calls to families and friends (Molina, 2019). The poor state of jails, being put in suicide watch rooms and being denied to use the telephone freely have affected inmates mentally. Isolation is one of the major causes of mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, stress, and depression. Compared to prison calls, jail calls in California State are higher than prison calls for fifteen minutes. According to the latest data, the California jail system charges seventeen dollars for a fifteen-minute call.
In-person jail visitation has been an area of debate in the California criminal justice system. The local jails have developed video calls in place of in-person visitation affecting inmates mentally. The use of video calls involves feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation leading to a lack of suicidal thoughts (Dorfman, 2020). During the pandemic, California jail has recorded the highest cases of mental illness in jails. The mental illnesses have been caused by poor conditions, negligence from sheriffs, fear, and concern about the spread of COVID-19. It has been challenging for California jails to step up and ensure COVID-19 regulations for social distancing and hygiene are met. According to tests and evaluations conducted in all states concerning jail/prison COVID-19 regularities, California received an F+ grade. The test considered areas such as the available personal protective equipment and psychological intervention used to reduce mental illness cases.
Methods to Addess Demand on Jail Populations/Detention rate
The state of California have developed various approaches, policies and Strategies to reduce the rate jail population. The government has proposed reforming policies, such as the extreme and aggressive level of isolation in jails and “realighnement”. The realignment strategy focus on reducing the prison population by shifting inmates into county jails. After the realignment, the county jails are overcrowded, reporting more death cases and poor physical and mental health conditions. to avoid overcrowding in jails, the government proposed separating inmates and constructing isolation rooms for critical and stubborn inmates. Acording to Gavin Newsom, individuals should not be placed in custody indefinitely (Molina, 2019). The county jails should also stop using the suicide watch rooms for isolation to prevent suicide death, such as the case of Kern jail. Suicide watch isolation rooms have been reported to increase the number of suicide cases. The government has put policies in place to replace the use of Yoga mats instead of using mattresses and blankets. The use of mattresses and blankets will promote mental health by reducing complaints and feelings of negligence from sheriffs.
Nevertheless, the government proposes the addition of mental health specialists to conduct inmate screening and counseling (Dorfman, 2020). To reduce the high population rate and inmate violence, the mental screening process will help separate psychotic inmates from inmates with no mental case. However, the strategy will enhance other methods of correction, such as rehabilitation instead of proposing jail. Since isolation without a mental specialist is harmful, mental health counselors can reduce the rate of sadness and feeling of isolation, especially with the strict phone call laws. After taking a tour in Kern county jail, the government proposed using internal investigation records to monitor inmates’ movement and behavior while in jail. The investigation record is meant to enhance sheriff accountability, responsibility, and reduce the rate of deaths in the cell caused by violence.
Nevertheless, the use of safety cells has replaced most dangerous suicide watch rooms in California. The safety cells are specialized for mentally ill inmates who have lost control. The safety cell standards require medical jail medical officials and staff to monitor inmates’ behavior within twelve hours (Molina, 2019). The safety cells have reduced the rate of suicide and inmate deaths, especially in managing inmates suspected or capable of causing harm to other inmates.
How the methods meet the Needs of Detainee/Community and Alleviate the
Demands on its Facilities
The methods proposed by the California criminal justice system and the government reduce the rate of suicide cases and mental health illnesses should be advanced. The realignment policy has increased the county jails’ population, which has affected the inmate’s mental stability. The policy has affected the jail’s general budget, where more resources and services are required to cater for the shifted inmates. Inmates shifted from prison require critical intervention, mostly mental and physical. The Jail system governed by the sheriff’s office faces challenges in managing the significant population, leading to violence and suicidal cases.
Additionally, the funds provided to cater for the realignment policy are embezzled by the top jail officials, hence affecting the overall implementation. To cater for mentally ill inmates, the government has proposed use of safety rooms, use of mattresses and blankets in place of yoga mats, flexibility in phone call laws, and additional mental health specialists (Dorfman, 2020). The country’s current state has affected most to jail regulations, such as the release of offenders, some county jails have extended the pre-trial period in jail. The quarantine season has revived mental health issues among inmates in California State.
The mental cases have been influenced and accelerated by the high number of inmates in county jails. To reduce the rate of mental health issues in the systems, the government should reduce inmates’ numbers and reduce the pre-trial term for most individuals (Molina, 2019). However, the legislation has reduced cases of insanity and mental instability in the community, especially from released individuals. Individuals in jail receive psychological counseling, which has improved inmates’ mental condition avoiding relapse once released. The flexibility of phone call laws has reduced depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among inmates, especially in safety rooms and suicide watch rooms. Enhancing communication and in-person visitation has reduced the number of deaths and cases of violence in jail.
The methods are being used effectively to reduce population and rate of mental illnesses among inmates, but the criminal justice system should put more control measures. Reducing the pre-trial term and adding more mental health counselors are the most effective approaches to reduce jail overcrowding, death and violence. The inmates should be monitored and screened frequently to identify the cause of violence. Screening and counseling would reduce the issue by far and, significantly, avoid mixing inmates with different mental insanity in one cell. Instead of putting inmates in safety rooms, I propose medical treatment and rehabilitation instead of incarceration because most inmates are victims of prolonged use of drugs and other mental illnesses, such as anxiety and schizophrenia, caused by social and genetic factors.
Dorfman, D. A. (2020). Doing Time in “The Devil’s Chair”: Evaluating Nonjudicial Administrative Decisions to Isolate and Restrain Prisoners and Detainees With Mental Health Disabilities in Jails and Prisons. American Behavioral Scientist, 0002764220956695.
Molina, J. (2019). California Prison Policy and its Effect on the Mentally Ill Prison Population (Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Northridge).