For nearly 50 years, Los Angeles County has failed to provide the most basic level of humanity, sanitation, and care to people in its jails.  

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project (ACLU NPP) and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) took the extraordinary and rare action of asking the federal judge presiding over their long-standing case about conditions in the jail’s Inmate Reception Center (IRC), to hold the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff’s Department in contempt of court and order sanctions. 

On Wednesday, April 19, at 10:00 a.m. PT U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson will hear arguments from lawyers for the thousands of people jailed daily in the nation’s largest jail system about why a contempt order and sanctions are merited. 

“After almost five decades of an endless cycle of promises followed by excuses and failures and generations of class members enduring abysmal conditions,” lawyers wrote in the filing seeking a contempt hearing, “the time for talk is over.” 

10:00 a.m. PT on Wednesday, April 19 

U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Western Division in Los Angeles 

United States Courthouse 
350 West 1st Street, Courtroom 9C 
Los Angeles, CA 90012  

Note that visitors to the courthouse must clear security to enter the building, any members of the media planning to attend the hearing should arrive at the building at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the hearing. 
Remote Option: The Court has set up a muted Zoom line to hear arguments for press who are unable to attend in-person. 

Call-in information: 

Click Zoom link (link is external) 

Telephone: (669) 254-5252 

Webinar ID: 161 229 6715 

Passcode: 434686 

Lawyers with the ACLU National Prison Project and ACLU SoCal 

Community members with Justice Los Angeles, a grassroots, community-led coalition working to reduce the footprint of incarceration. 

The court will be hearing two other matters relating to the L.A. County jails on Wednesday morning. Attorneys with the ACLU representing people in the jails will be available for interviews after the conclusion of all the jail hearings. 

During visits to the Intake Reception Center, the Los Angeles jail system’s booking facility, in the summer of 2022, ACLU and ACLU SoCal lawyers recorded abhorrent conditions, including seriously mentally ill people being chained to chairs for days at a time. 

In September 2022, the ACLU and ACLU SoCal filed an emergency motion, asking the judge to order the L.A. Board of Supervisors and sheriff to bring conditions up to basic standards. During the emergency hearing, lawyers for the county conceded that conditions were less than adequate. 

The judge issued a new order, detailing the steps the sheriff and county must take to avoid constitutional violations, including not detaining people in the IRC for more than 24 hours,  not chaining people to objects for more than four hours, and ensuring people had access to adequate medical and mental health care, including medication. 

In February 2023, the ACLU and ACLU SoCal filed the contempt motion, because visits to the jail showed continued non-compliance with the September order. 

The ACLU and ACLU SoCal filed Rutherford v. Luna, as the lawsuit is now known, in 1975. The lawsuit tracks nearly 50 years of mass incarceration, as lawmakers and elected officials in L.A. County have adopted and enforced failed policies that criminalize poverty and people with mental illnesses. The result is catastrophic overcrowding and the senseless suffering of people who should not be in jail. 

In the filings, the ACLU and ACLU SoCal urge the L.A. Board of Supervisors to make good on their promise of investing in care, not jails, and properly resource existing programs that provide affordable housing, mental health and medical support in the community.