Advocates say: “The space is not the problem, it’s the management.”
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on a second design contract for their planned
“Correctional Health And Mental Health Services Facility”. The county claims that the Mays v. Sacramento consent decree requirements “are not able to be accommodated in the existing Main Jail facility due to limitations in square footage”, but the county has yet to answer key questions around alternative ways to meet the Mays consent decree and the basic human rights of those currently living inside Sacramento County jails.
The Mays consent decree was finalized in December 2019, after the county was sued to address dangerous conditions and discrimination in Sacramento County’s Jail facilities. The consent decree states that “the parties agree that population reduction of the jails will facilitate compliance with this Remedial Plan”.
Advocate Niki Jones says that “the County continues to ignore that the vast majority of Mays consent decree requirements involve the behavior and decision-making of Sheriff’s Deputies inside the jail.” It has been over a year after the Mays consent decree was finalized and the Board has not heard a status report on any efforts to meet these
consent decree requirements.
“It was not the building that made it harder for me, it was the Sheriffs” said Niki Jones, an advocate with Decarcerate Sacramento, as she described her experience in the Main Jail during a mental health crisis.
Those who have been incarcerated in the Main Jail since the consent decree was finalized say that little, if any progress has been made to change behaviors and policies. Pamela Emanual, who was incarcerated in the Main Jail for
nearly three years said “It was the cruel way they treated you and constant isolation, locking you down like an animal.
Even with the consent decree in place they continued to do that, they never stopped.” Pam also emphasized that “The
space is not the problem, it’s the management.”
“The county has not explored all alternative options for meeting the consent decree requirements without the construction of a new building.” said Tifanei Ressl-Moyer, an attorney with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights.
“County staff have yet to fully address the options of diverting populations with mental illness and people who use wheelchairs from the jail, to proven alternatives.”
Dr. Christina Bourne, MD, MPH a psychiatry and family medicine resident, who has worked inside the Main Jail says that a more “therapeutic” architectural design “is not going to solve the root causes of the consent decree and of suffering inside. An “improved facility” will not solve the systemic and cultural issues of Sheriff deputy behavior and
The County is set to vote on funding for “Alternatives to 911 for Mental Health Calls” in February, and advocate Henry Ortiz with All Of Us or None Sacramento says that $10 million “would be better spent on alternatives to police response. We need funding for treatment that does not punish people for needing help.”