Rising Death Toll and Neglect in Los Angeles County Jails

The death toll in Los Angeles County jails has reached alarming levels, with 45 inmates dying in custody last year alone. This marks one of the deadliest years in recent history, despite a decrease in the overall jail population. Suicides have slightly decreased after a sharp spike in 2021, but natural deaths, killings, and overdoses have significantly increased compared to a decade ago. The reasons behind this surge in fatalities remain a subject of debate among jail leaders, oversight officials, and inmate advocates.

While Sheriff Robert Luna claims that inmates receive the “best healthcare” while incarcerated, a comprehensive review by The Times reveals a common thread of neglect by both guards and medical staff. Autopsies, lawsuits, medical records, and oversight reports all point to instances of negligence leading to inmate deaths. Shockingly, some deaths occurred in full view of jail surveillance cameras, which were only reviewed after the fact. Inmates have died from jumping off railings, self-inflicted injuries, and drug overdoses using makeshift needles.

Oversight officials have repeatedly raised concerns about the quality and frequency of safety checks, as well as the delayed response to medical emergencies. The Board of State and Community Corrections has cited the jails for noncompliance multiple times, prompting an in-person inquiry into the reasons behind the failure to check on inmates at least hourly.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department acknowledges the seriousness of all in-custody deaths but refrains from commenting on individual cases. The department states that it takes every effort to prevent similar deaths in the future. Similarly, the county agency overseeing jail healthcare cannot comment on specific cases due to medical privacy laws.

One tragic case that highlights the consequences of neglect is that of Jubal Hunter, who spent over two years in Men’s Central Jail awaiting trial. Despite suffering from various health conditions, including kidney failure and diabetes, Jubal was denied proper care and faced numerous challenges during his time in custody. His lawyers raised concerns about his treatment and the conditions at the jail, including inadequate clothing and meals. Jubal’s health deteriorated to the point where he required hospitalization for COVID-19, but the Sheriff’s Department initially refused to allow his lawyers to visit him.

The rising death toll in Los Angeles County jails reflects a broader issue of deteriorating conditions and negligence in correctional facilities across the country. While the exact number of deaths in jails and prisons nationwide remains unknown, scrutiny has increased in recent years due to similar trends observed in other states. In Los Angeles County, natural deaths have increased by 40% since 2014, while unnatural deaths, including homicides, suicides, and overdoses, have risen by at least 65%.

The alarming rise in overdoses within the jails is particularly concerning. Last year, drug-related deaths accounted for 12 out of the 45 inmate fatalities, more than double the number from a decade ago. Instances of inmates overdosing while in custody have been reported, with delayed responses and fellow inmates often being the first to provide aid.

CrimeDoor
Author: CrimeDoor

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