With Los Angeles County jails closing and staff shortages growing, many inmates with medical problems are being forced to sleep on cold concrete floors, sometimes for days, as they wait to be transferred to a cellblock, the Los Angeles Times reports. The overcrowding has reached the point that it exceeds court orders governing the management of the county jail system. As many as 950 inmates stream into the jail each day. Prisoners routinely get stuck in a bottleneck at the reception center, which is not equipped to house them overnight.
Hundreds of inmates with medical or psychological problems must be seen by medical staff before they are assigned a bunk. The waiting period to see a doctor can drag on for two or three days. Once in a cellblock, many inmates still lack a bed. Each night, about 350 “floor-sleepers,” as they are called by jailers, settle onto foam mats on the floor. Under court orders obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, inmates are supposed to be given a bed after a single night on the floor, and everyone assigned to the floor must be given a mat. But that does not always happen. “People are falling through the cracks on a regular basis, where they end up on the floor for three days or a week,” said the ACLU’s Jody Kent. Sheriff’s Chief Chuck Jackson said the Los Angeles system guards about 17,800 inmates with 2,100 deputies. In Cook County, Ill., by comparison, about 2,500 jailers watch over 10,600 inmates. In New York City, 9,500 jailers guard 14,100 inmates. “They have almost four times the staff that we have and 4,000 [fewer] inmates to watch,” Jackson said. “Nobody believes it, but we are an extremely efficient organization.”