Paul Wellman (file)

A criminal justice advocacy group released a damning report last week about medical care for inmates in the Santa Barbara County Jail. The group, Disability Rights California, is suing the county in an attempt to improve medical practices in the jail.

It has been well established that the main jail located off Calle Real is a structural nightmare. The building is a maze, haphazardly renovated multiple times in recent decades. The report describes a restrictive environment for inmates: They are forced to spend most of the time in their cell except for a daily shower and twice-a-week recreation time.

Among the 26 findings, the group reported that County Jail is not accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) or the American Correctional Association (ACA). The inspector, Dr. Scott Allen, said he had a difficult time obtaining a copy of the jail’s policies, which he later found were not specific to Santa Barbara County. In addition, there is no policy for transgender inmates. The protocols for drug or alcohol withdrawal were inadequate. Staffing vacancies identified by a consultant four years ago have not been addressed. And although a recruitment plan is in place, it does not include a plan to hire an intake nurse.

The report also found a routine review of inmate deaths was not consistently completed. Two weeks ago, 60-year-old Henry Acuna was found unresponsive in his single cell and died later in the hospital. He had been in jail for nine months on robbery charges. His death was the 12th inmate fatality in the past seven years.

In addition, the report found, a high volume of grievances were filed. Many were substantiated. The full report can be found as a PDF document below.

Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover said in an email the department was working with Disability Rights California (DRC) to address areas of “mutual concern.” Aaron Fischer, an attorney with DRC, said the county has “continued to show a commitment to working with us toward an adequate remedy.” Settlement discussions would continue into the spring, he added. DRC is not seeking monetary damages.


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