SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A report has been issued criticizing the Santa Barbara County Jail for its alleged treatment of prisoners with disabilities. The Disability Rights California (DRC) report says prisoners are denied basic mental health care, held in solitary confinement, and housed in conditions that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown responded to the report by issuing the following statement:
"The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office has reviewed the Disability Rights California report, and while we agree with some of its findings that are related to the limitations of our current level of staffing and our antiquated facility, we strongly disagree with conclusions that inmates are subjected to abuse or neglect in the jail.
We recognize there are areas for improvement, but to say that inmates are being neglected or abused is an unfair, unjust and inflammatory statement. The Sheriff's Office is committed to ensuring that all inmates are treated professionally, humanely and fairly while in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail. Custody staff are devoted to meeting and exceeding the standards of care and programs mandated by law.
We also have been recognized as being a leader in providing recidivism reduction programming, educational courses, vocational training, and other positive opportunities for inmates. Our Custody Staff is made up of caring, dedicated, hard-working professionals who provide a vital public safety service and take very seriously their mission to protect the public by maintaining a safe and secure custody facility.
While we are proud of the work being done at the jail, we always seek to improve. We are carefully considering the DRC report findings and are committed to making certain changes where possible."
DRC's report describes how inmates are denied accommodations required by the ADA. "The main jail is old and inaccessible," the summary report says, "Which contributes to problems with ADA compliance."
The report describes how prisoners with mental illness are held in isolation for more than 20 hours per day. Suicidal prisoners are routinely held for days at a time in "safety cells," small windowless rooms the size of a closet, with no bed, toilet or source of water according to the DRC report, based on an inspection visit in 2015.
DRC says Sheriff Brown has agreed to appoint a new ADA coordinator and consider changes to other policies identified in the report.
Read the full Disability Rights California report HERE.