Capping years of scandal, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has agreed to federal oversight of its jail system in an effort to end abuse of inmates by sheriff’s deputies and to improve poor treatment of mentally ill inmates, the Los Angeles Times reports. The agreement announced yesterday establishes an independent monitor, overseen by a federal judge, who will make sure the reforms are carried out. Richard Drooyan, a former Los Angeles Police Commission president who served on a commission that was highly critical of Sheriff’s Department operations, was appointed monitor. The move comes as federal prosecutors continue to pursue criminal charges against several sheriff’s officials, including the former second-in-command, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.
Prosecutors already have won convictions against deputies accused of abusing inmates or of obstructing federal investigators looking into jail violence. Last June, federal officials stated their intent to seek the agreement in a strongly worded report that described a spike in jail suicides, many of which they termed “preventable.” Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who took office in December and previously served on a citizens’ commission on jail violence, says he welcomes federal oversight of the nation’s largest county jail system. Many of the reforms required by the settlement are completed or well underway, he said. About 20 percent of the 17,000 county jail are classified as mentally ill. The 58-page settlement agreement details a wide array of changes to improve conditions for inmates with mental illnesses.