The DOJ Compliance Office was established in February 2023 to drive Los Angeles County’s compliance with the remaining provisions of a 2015 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) to improve conditions in the County’s jail system for those with mental health conditions.
Our objective is to help County departments fully meet court-approved goals under the settlement even as the number of people in custody with severe mental health issues has steadily increased over the past three years.
The Office is led by veteran attorney and legal executive Maggie Carter, who has been empowered to set priorities, expedite approvals, and sustain focus across multiple departments to accomplish this goal. The team brings a compassionate focus on the fundamental need for this work, which is to protect the constitutional rights of those in our jails who suffer from mental illness.
Work in Progress Across LA County Departments
Decreasing the jail population
The County has worked with the State to expedite long-awaited transfers to state prisons and hospitals. More than 4,791 individuals sentenced to state prison have been transferred, with the population pending state prison transfer reduced from 1,543 to 701 from early March to September 29. (This number fluctuates and has been as low as 488.)
The County is also working to safely divert individuals from jail into community mental health treatment settings. The Board of Supervisors has allocated funding for the year-one ramp up of expanded community treatment placements through the County’s Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR) and Department of Mental Health (DMH). The County has also entered into a $629 million dollar contract with the Department of State Hospitals to increase capacity for community-based restoration services for individuals who would otherwise wait in jail for transfer to state hospital.
The Board of Supervisors has approved an additional 500 mental health beds for DMH and ODR to serve individuals with higher-acuity mental health needs in custody who are eligible for mental health diversion or conservatorship.
ODR has secured $629 million in funding over 5 years to expand its programs serving individuals found incompetent to stand trial (IST).
The Justice, Care and Opportunities Department (JCOD) has signed a contract to expand beds for diversion, alternative sentencing, or early releases for individuals with lower acuity mental health needs.
Correctional Health Services (CHS) opened a new acute intervention module (AIM) and has treated more than 325 patients with high-acuity mental health needs in that unit as of August 30.
The County is expanding Stepdown and dorm modules for individuals in High Observation Housing (HOH). These HOH units are modeled as therapeutic housing that will allow inmates to participate in programming without restraints, allowing for more socialization and enhanced out-of-cell time opportunities. The county now has a total of 18 Stepdown and HOH dorm units and is expanding that number.
LASD expedited renovations and has reopened an outdoor green space at the Century Regional Detention Facility (women’s jail) to enhance out-of-cell recreational opportunities, including for those in mental health housing.
Remodeling of clinical mental health space within the Inmate Reception Center (IRC) is underway to provide clinical workstations and private clinical consultation space, along with more comfortable and appropriately spaced seating for the acutely mentally ill population awaiting evaluation.
Staffing and Support
The County announced assignment bonuses of up to 20% for more than 1,900 Correctional Health Services (CHS) employees working in the jails to help retain and recruit staff in key clinical, case management, technical and administrative positions.
322 staff have been hired, promoted or transferred in to CHS since March 2023, with an additional 91 in process for hiring as of October 12, 2023.
New psychiatric staff have been hired in IRC to assess medication requirements.
215 new deputies have been assigned to custody between December 2022 and the end of June 2023.
Operations and Support
LASD developed a new technology tool in IRC, the Shared Intake Management (SIM) System, that uses wristband scanner technology and integrates Sheriff’s Department systems to track, monitor, and implement the timely movement of people through the intake process to reduce wait times.
LASD has retrained staff on legal requirements for appropriate conditions in IRC including consistent use of the SIM system to ensure people are processed within allowable timeframes from the IRC and to ensure sanitary conditions throughout the IRC.
A 2015 Settlement Agreement (linked above) with the U.S. Department of Justice requires the County to comply with 69 provisions related to conditions and care for individuals in custody with mental health conditions. The County’s progress is assessed twice each year by a court-appointed monitor. The County is in substantial compliance with 42 of the provisions and in partial compliance with another 18 at one or more facilities. County departments are now focused on achieving substantial compliance with all remaining provisions. In particular, provisions 63, 64 and 80 will drive compliance efforts based on their potential for broad impact and systemic improvement.
- Provision 63: Sufficient high-observation and medium-observation housing (HOH and MOH)
- Provision 64: Availability of inpatient care
- Provision 80: Out of cell time in HOH housing
This multi-faceted work is being carried out by a wide range of LA County departments and divisions—including Correctional Health Services, the Justice, Care, and Opportunities Department, Mental Health, the Office of Diversion and Reentry, and the Sheriff’s Department—and relies on many others, including our justice partners in the courts and various State agencies, to achieve the broad systemic changes that will be required.
Related Board Motions/Reports/Legal Filings:
- Joint Settlement Agreement regarding the Los Angeles County Jails and Stipulated Order of Resolution (September 9, 2015)
- Moving Forward: Expansion of Secure Mental Health Beds and Development of Secure Mental Health Facilities to Depopulate the Los Angeles County Jails (April 4, 2023)
- Twin Towers Correctional Health Inmate Reception Center Remodeling Project (April 18, 2023)
- Designation of Jail Inpatient Unit/Acute Intervention Module for the Evaluation and Treatment of Mentally Ill Inmates at Twin Towers Correctional Facility (May 16, 2023)
- Joint Stipulation Re: Plaintiff’s Motion for an Order to Show Cause Re: Contempt (June 16, 2023)
- Supporting the Expansion of FIP Stepdown and HOH Dorm Units in Los Angeles County Jails (June 27, 2023)