DOJ: Alameda County violates rights of mental health patients, inmates

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ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Alameda County violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Constitution, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The department’s investigation found that the county fails to provide proper services to those with mental health disabilities, and that conditions and practices at the county’s Santa Rita Jail violate the U.S. Constitution and the ADA.

The DOJ specifically stated Santa Rita Jail, where dozens of people have committed suicide, is in violation of the 8th and 14th amendments of the constitution.

A woman killed herself earlier this month at the jail, marking the second suicide at the jail this year and the 50th since 2014.

The federal report said Alameda County failed to provide services to people with mental health disabilities, including those at risk of suicide, too often puts them in isolation, and unnecessarily ships them off to mental hospitals or other restrictive housing.

“On any given day in Alameda County, hundreds of people are institutionalized for lengthy stays at one of several large, locked psychiatric facilities” or at John George Psychiatric Hospital, said a Department of Justice statement.

The Santa Rita Jail has about 2,200 inmates, making it one of the largest jails or prisons in the nation.

Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department that operates the jails, estimated that close to half of the inmates at the jail have mental health issues, many of them serious.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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