After Landmark Jail Conditions Settlement, LA County Must Get Out of Its Own Way

County bureaucracy has long delayed community-based mental health treatment, obscuring inaction that risks lives and safety in custody and the wider Los Angeles community.

June 22, 2023

Contact: Trip Eggert | | (212) 376-3157, ext. 1033

In response to the landmark settlement over brutal jail conditions between Los Angeles County and the American Civil Liberties Union, Michelle Parris, director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s California office, issued the following statement:

“The Vera Institute of Justice applauds Los Angeles County for agreeing to settle the American Civil Liberties Union’s contempt motion regarding the inhumane conditions in the county’s jails. The terms of the agreement are urgently needed. Deaths in custody continue to mount, with 24 recorded so far this year, and 42 percent of people currently held in the county’s jails are living with mental health conditions and at particular risk of destabilization and harm.

“A key piece of this agreement is building out nearly 2,000 beds to divert currently incarcerated people into community-based mental health treatment, something community members have demanded for years. While it should not have required litigation to see movement, this settlement is an opportunity for the county to finally build the robust, decentralized system of care Los Angeles needs. Now, the county must get out of its own way. Bureaucracy has long delayed and killed much-needed solutions while obscuring inaction that risks people’s lives and safety, not only in custody but in the wider community.

“Community-based service providers will be important partners in bringing these treatment beds online. Our interviews with local service providers who support releases from jail show that there are significant—but solvable—bureaucratic hurdles to implementing an effective continuum of care in Los Angeles. The county must quickly ensure these organizations, particularly smaller ones whose leaders have lived experience within the criminal legal system, have the right support and infrastructure.

“We also call on the county to publicly track the beds it makes available in real time, rather than in quarterly reports. Stakeholders deserve to see progress as it happens, and the county needs this information to make informed policy and budget decisions that respond to the volume of demand and address long-standing disparities in treatment access for the communities most impact by incarceration.”


About the Vera Institute of Justice: The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and policy experts working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit

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