Conditions in county jails that conform to the United States Constitution are a prerequisite for the legitimacy and integrity of the American justice system. Under the Eighth and 14th Amendments, jails have a duty to protect all people who are incarcerated, whether sentenced or pretrial.
Conditions that fail to meet not only constitutional but also state and department standards for physical security, medical care, mental health care and living environment are unlawful and should not be tolerated. Discriminatory policies and practices and noncompliance with legal standards may further violate the rights of individuals who are incarcerated and give rise to concerns of legal liability.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, roughly 242,000 people in California are in custody. More than 34% are incarcerated at local jails, accounting for roughly 13% of the nation’s local jail population. For more than 40 years, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) has worked to ensure that a basic standard of care is provided to people in jail. The ACLU SoCal is the court-ordered monitor of conditions of confinement within all Los Angeles County jail facilities. Through its Jails Project, the ACLU SoCal responds to complaints by individuals who are incarcerated and ensures that court-ordered reforms are implemented. The organization also entered into a partnership with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office to help monitor its jails in 2016.