Disability Rights California (DRC), a pioneering settlement, reached an agreement with the County of Orange as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The plan includes essential changes to policies in the Orange County Jail and conditions. The settlement comes after a year-long investigation by DRC along with its authorized agents Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld as well as the Law Office of Aaron J. Fischer regarding County Jail treatment of incarcerated individuals.
On the advice of DRC, County hired an expert team of Sabot Consulting members to perform an assessment of the Jail system. The evaluation focused on the rights of people living with disabilities, the use and abuse of solitary detention, and Jail practices that affect lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender (“LGBTQ”) persons. The experts concluded that the County was failing orange county inmate search people with disabilities equal access to programs. It was also keeping people in prison for long periods or even all day. And it was incarcerating people in highly restrictive and high-security units due to their LGBTQ identity. DRC and County reached an agreement to address the problems identified based on the report of the experts (link is below).
“Being incarcerated for transgender women has led to me losing all my rights, just because I am who I am,” said one DRC client. My peers are one the least violent group of people, but are also subject to the most restricted rules. LGBTQ housing should not serve as a punishment.
Michael Freedman from RBGG stated, “This settlement comes at a great moment of urgency.” The Remedial Plan is the product of long negotiations and the input of jail inmates. After the County fully implements its Remedial Plan, the community should see significant improvements.
It’s difficult to imagine ever being capable of forgetting. It was about two years ago that I was in my jail cell, and I saw a tall person climbing up the top tier staircase rail. He shouted over and over: “It’s broken!” It’s broken!” He looked like an amateur wrestler who was preparing for a fight. However, this was not a large, crowded arena that could hold a billion dollars. Wrestlers rarely do stunts that leave them dead on a concrete surface.
I saw the man turn to me immediately, his eyes far away, and his expression was one of anguish and distress. I helped him descend with the sound my voice made, and he gradually returned to whatever dark place in his mind. I assured him that anything was possible to fix. I would have offered him stars and the moon if that meant he would choose death over life, but that was not the moment I had in mind. Instead, I gave him what I believed was most important: hope.
I spoke softly to him and said, “Look, even though you don’t know me,” but that I loved him. And no matter what you’re going through, it doesn’t have to be all your own. Talk to me, I’ll help you. I was terrified of the possibility that I would be watching someone fall to their deaths. However, I didn’t have to speak a word as the man slowly climbed off the rail. I recall motioning gently to him in the direction of mine and being struck with the question he posed me after reaching my cell.
I don’t know if it was because of the way the question was being asked, or if I was just overwhelmed by the intensity of the situation. I was overcome with tears and said, “Ofcourse.” He then introduced himself as John.