U.S. District Judge William P. Gray, who has been overseeing overcrowding problems at the County Jail facilities, ordered officials Thursday to improve telephone access for inmates in isolated sections and facilitate inmates' access to hard-cover books.
Gray also asked Sheriff Brad Gates to see if he could cut down the amount of time attorneys have to wait to see their clients in jail.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which had brought the original lawsuit against the county on jail overcrowding, has asked Gray to issue a wide range of orders regarding inmate rights which would go beyond the original overcrowding issue. Gray first ordered the county to improve jail conditions in 1978.
On Thursday, Gray ordered telephones installed in areas of administrative segregation--where problem inmates are kept away from the main jail population--and in medical isolation.
"We had always made telephones available to these people; we just did not have phones installed in those places," Deputy County Counsel Edward N. Duran said. "But we've told the judge we had no objections to the phones."
Jail Commander Wyatt Hart had testified before Gray two weeks ago that contraband can be smuggled into the jail in the bindings of hard-cover books. But Hart said then that he would not consider it a major security problem if a limited number of hard-cover books were permitted for special circumstances. Gray's order requires that the jail allow hard-cover books through the mail in cases where an inmate can show a need for the books.
In an action that pleased county officials, Gray made few changes Thursday regarding inmates' access to law libraries.
County Counsel Adrian Kuyper said in a letter to the Board of Supervisors that Gray could have ordered that law libraries be established at all jail facilities, including the Theo Lacy branch jail in Orange and the James A. Musick branch jail near El Toro.
Access to Law Books
Gray ordered that all inmates have some kind of access to law books but said the present system of providing five laws books at a time to an inmate is adequate.
Kuyper was so pleased about the law book ruling that he wrote to the supervisors that "I am hopeful the ACLU will regard this . . . as an indication that the court seems satisfied that no violations are occurring and that therefore the ACLU will reduce further litigation against the county."
ACLU attorney Richard P. Herman could not be reached Thursday. Herman recently said he does not see the need for any more litigation until the end of the summer, when Gray must decide whether to continue his modified order to permit 1,450 inmates at the main men's jail in Santa Ana on weekends instead of the 1,400 in his original order.