LOS ANGELES - In a letter to Sheriff Lee Baca and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, the ACLU of Southern California sought assurance that a county jail budget increase will end the practice of forcing inmates to sleep on the floor.

The Board of Supervisors allocated an additional $24.4 million to the jail coffers last December with the intent to reopen jail beds and curb the early release of inmates. Sheriff Baca says he will reopen 760 beds in March and 400 beds in May. Currently about 650 inmates at the seven county facilities sleep on the floor each night. The county must provide each inmate with a bed after one night on the floor.

"Right now conditions are so poor, especially at decrepit facilities like Men's Central Jail, that they create a public health risk for deputies, inmates and the community. More beds are essential to accommodate the existing inmate population," said Jody Kent, Jails Project Coordinator for the ACLU.

Overcrowding in the jails augments tension among inmates and facilitates the spread of staph and other infectious diseases making it an unhealthy work environment and a danger to all of Los Angeles. It is also in direct violation of the court order Rutherford v. Block.

"The county's legal obligation is to get inmates off the floor after 24 hours and it is not meeting this requirement," said Ricardo Garcia, Criminal Justice Director for the ACLU of Southern California. "We expect these funds will help do that."