The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a settlement with the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, a nonprofit public interest law firm, for providing health and mental health services for inmates of the county's Martinez and Richmond jail facilities.
The settlement, county officials and an attorney said, lays out how the county will continue to provide inmate services, including health and mental health services, going forward.
The decree will now be filed in federal district court for approval by a judge, and will be monitored by court experts and by the Prison Law Office.
The Prison Law Office is a nonprofit public interest law firm based in Berkeley, advocating for "fair and humane treatment" of prison, jail and juvenile facility inmates, and those on parole.
"This is a road map for positive change, one that moves the county forward in further improving both the physical space and services provided," said Supervisor Candace Andersen, the board chair. "For the board, improving health and mental health services for the individuals at county detention facilities is of the utmost importance. We want to stop those with a mental illness from repeatedly cycling through our jails."
Since early 2016, the county and the Prison Law Office have been working together to evaluate and redesign services provided at the Martinez Detention Facility and the West County Detention Facility. As part of this work, the county's mental health and medical services and its suicide prevention practices were evaluated by independent experts.
Don Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office, said that when this investigation began, there was excessive use of force at the two jails, and health care and mental health services were inadequate.
"Conditions when we toured there were pretty dangerous from various perspectives," Specter said Wednesday. "Experts were hired by the county, and they corroborated what we found."
Implementation of some of the mandated changes have already started. The settlement requires the county to set aside money to pay for enough staff to enact the improvements; 83 full-time county positions have been added related to providing improved programs and services, county officials said.