Incarcerated people at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin may get a Christmas gift in the form of better mental health care following a federal class action lawsuit.
Both sides reached a proposed settlement and agreement in the lawsuit against Alameda County, which runs the jail.
Proposed changes over the next two years have to do with the delivery of care, out of cell time, accommodations for people with mental disabilities, use-of-force, discharge planning, and among other things, suicide prevention.
Nineteen people have died by suicide at Santa Rita Jail since 2014 and 31 more died there from other causes. Fifty is a large number for a jail of Santa Rita's size, attorneys for the incarcerated people said.
What initially prompted the lawsuit were the suicides, said attorney Jeffrey Bornstein, a partner at Rosen Bien Galvan and Grunfeld, which represents the people incarcerated at the jail.
The jail was getting high scores from one or more accrediting bodies, yet people were dying, he said
"The (jail's) whole mental health care system was broken," Bornstein said in an interview Friday.
For example, the behavioral health care unit was called the "mental unit" before the lawsuit was filed.
"We are pleased with the settlement and are looking forward to implementing the necessary changes to benefit those in our custody and make our staff and jail safer," said Sgt. Ray Kelly, with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
"We have been committed to the process for the last three years and will continue to work hard to achieve the goals of the settlement," Kelly said.
The settlement is not final. A hearing on the motion for a preliminary approval is set for Sept. 22 and the hearing for the final approval before the court is set for Dec. 15.