Please attribute the following statement to Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California:
"The ACLU of Southern California welcomes the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to seek court oversight of how the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Mental Health treat inmates suffering from mental illness. For too long, both departments have chosen to ignore repeated calls to improve conditions for mentally ill inmates. In fact, a number of today’s Justice Department findings are eerily similar to those reported by Dr. Terri Kupers, a nationally recognized expert, in a 2008 ACLU of Southern California study – a study that the Board of Supervisors, Department of Mental Health and the Sheriff’s Department ignored.
We hope the Justice Department’s findings will put the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors on notice that building a more expensive jail won’t fix the constitutional violations taking place every day. We urge the county to cooperate with federal officials, and move swiftly to adopt the Justice Department’s recommendations that the sheriff and the Mental Health director adopt programs to divert people with mental illness charged with non-violent offenses into community treatment, which is more suited to helping treat individuals with mental illness. This is an approach that Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has endorsed. But if the horrible problems the Department of Justice identified are going to be fixed, the rest of the county and the Board of Supervisors must support the district attorney’s goal of dramatically reducing the population of people with mental illness in the jails by moving them to community treatment."