LOS ANGELES - After touring Men's Central Jail Wednesday evening, a federal judge today ordered representatives of the Los Angeles' Sheriff's Department and the Board of Supervisors to meet with the ACLU of Southern California over the next two weeks in order to develop a comprehensive plan to improve conditions at Men's Central Jail, the largest jail in the country.

Judge Dean D. Pregerson asked the ACLU and the county to present a jails reform plan to him at a hearing scheduled for May 25.

The following statement can be attributed to Jody Kent, coordinator of the jails project at the ACLU of Southern California.

After a comprehensive tour of Men's Central Jail yesterday, we are pleased that Judge Pregerson agreed with the ACLU of Southern California that the living conditions at Men's Central Jail must be improved.

The ACLU is encouraged that the Court shares our concerns with regard to cell overcrowding. The judge noted that inmates are crammed into cells where they remain locked down nearly twenty-four hours a day, with barely any room to stand up, much less walk around. The Court noted that inmates remain in their beds day and night as a result. The judge said that such conditions are "not consistent with basic values" and that they "should not be permitted to exist."

Overcrowded living conditions, a staffing shortage and insufficient fire safety measures have contributed to ongoing tension, violence and a general lack of safety for inmates and deputies in the jails and must be eliminated. We are encouraged that the County signaled its willingness to negotiate the issues the Court raised and we look forward to forging a long-term commitment with the County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff's Department to develop a master plan to expeditiously improve conditions in the jails. To do this successfully we believe the Court's involvement in this process is imperative.

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