The most encouraging news to come out of the Orange County Jail in years was the announcement last Wednesday that Board of Supervisors Chairman Harriett Wieder and Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates will try to work out the "communications problems" that for so long have impeded the coordination needed to provide adequate health care for jail inmates.
The lack of adequate communication has long been a cause of conflict between the Sheriff's Department, which runs the jail and is responsible for the health and welfare of the prisoners in its custody, and the county's Health Care Agency, which operates the medical ward and supplies the people who actually provide the physical and mental health-care services.
The inadequate communications were specifically cited last year by the county Grand Jury, which criticized such practices as keeping confidential the mental-health files on inmates and not making certain information available to jail personnel.
The relatively high number of inmate deaths at the jail in recent years is reason enough for a more coordinated approach to inmate care. Adding to the problem are strained personnel relations that have been heightened by several incidents in recent months.