In a major victory for thousands of former Los Angeles County jail inmates, a federal judge ruled that jail officials violated the prisoners’ constitutional rights when they had them sleep on concrete floors because of chronic overcrowding, reports the Los Angeles Times. U.S District Judge Dean Pregerson said jail officials were guilty of “deliberate indifference” when they failed to provide inmates with bunks. “Quite simply, that a custom of leaving inmates nowhere to sleep but the floor constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is nothing short of self-evident,” he said.
Inmates would have to prove only that they deserved to be compensated for having slept on the floor, attorney Stephen Yagman said. “This is quite an extraordinary ruling; I’ve never seen anything like it.” A sheriff’s spokesman said the practice of having inmates sleep on the floor “is over, and has been for a while now.” Yagman said he had evidence showing that the practice was continuing. He said the number of inmates involved in the cases could be as high as 500,000.