Op-Ed: Advocacy Group Urges County to Address COVID-19 Outbreak in Jail
By CLUE Santa Barbara (CLERGY & LAITY UNITED FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE)
Avoid Catastrophic staffing Crisis and COVID Transmission
Nearly one-quarter of the 725 jail residents have tested positive during the outbreak that began last month. As of January 5th, there were 94 active resident cases and 32 active staff cases. Now mental health and health care staff report 45% vacancies and at times have been unable to provide COVID vaccines to anyone in custody, despite a backlog of requests from jail residents.
1. Reduce Jail Numbers Safely. The recent Jail rise from 580 to 725 results from triple the number of those accused of misdemeanors. Sentenced low level charged jail residents, and those nearing the end of lengthy sentences, should be screened and released. Sheriff Brown should be encouraged to follow the practice of other counties and use discretion for early release; thus far he has failed to act.
2. House mental health patients and those with substance abuse issues in appropriate alternatives. (A recent Santa Barbara Grand Jury Report found under use of current community mental health crisis beds)
3. Enable County Probation to coordinate risk assessments to recommend discharge. Ask the County Board of Supervisors to provide authority and resources so the County Probation can manage decisions related to discharge. The Supervisors should accelerate funding for a multi-disciplinary risk assessment team, appoint Probation to lead this effort, and immediately implement assessment and release of jail residents deemed not to be a risk to public safety.
4. Safe North County Branch Jail Opening. Lawyers recommend collaboration with their Jail Remedial Plan experts to provide safe staffing ratios and required safe transport practices for the north county move.
Send letter of support to county officials for a safer jail COVID response here: https://bit.ly/3nlw9n6
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