U.S. Justice Department Finds that Conditions at the San Luis Obispo County Jail Violate the Constitution

The San Luis Obispo County Jail violates the rights of prisoners by, among other things, failing to provide adequate medical care and subjecting some prisoners to excessive uses of force, according to a Justice Department report that calls upon the jail to make changes to address the constitutional violations found during an investigation. The Justice Department concluded that there is reason to believe that the practices at the jail violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Specifically, the Justice Department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the jail fails to provide constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care to prisoners, that the jail violates the constitutional rights of prisoners with serious mental illness through its prolonged use of restrictive housing, and that the jail violates the constitutional rights of prisoners through the use of excessive force. The report also found that the jail violates the ADA by denying prisoners with mental health disabilities access to services, programs and activities because of their disabilities.

As required by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the Department today provided the facility with written notice of the supporting facts for these findings and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address them.

“San Luis Obispo County violated the rights of prisoners in its jail in several ways, including failing to provide adequate health care and subjecting some prisoners to excessive force,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “Our office is dedicated to defending the civil rights of everyone in this district, including those behind bars.”

“Our Constitution guarantees that all people held in jails and prisons across our country are treated humanely, and that includes providing access to necessary medical and mental health care,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “After a comprehensive investigation, we found that the San Luis Obispo Jail harms the people it incarcerates by subjecting them to excessive force and by failing to provide adequate medical and mental health care. The Justice Department hopes to continue to work with the jail to resolve these systemic problems.”

The United States Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division initiated the investigation in October 2018 under CRIPA and Title II of the ADA, which authorize the Justice Department to take action to address a pattern or practice of deprivation of legal rights of individuals confined to correctional facilities operated by state or local governments.

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