LOS ANGELES — Orange County supervisors should hire an independent consultant to review management at Orange County Jail, says a federal judge handling a variety of lawsuits filed by inmates against Sheriff Brad Gates.
U.S. District Judge William P. Gray said Monday that he would be "heartened" if such a review took place because, although Gates and his top staffers are trying to implement numerous court orders aimed at improving conditions at the jail, "the court has the impression the word doesn't get down (the line)."
Deputy County Counsel Edward N. Duran told Gray that he would send Gray's recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
In an interview late Monday, board Chairman Roger R. Stanton said he had not yet heard Gray's recommendation but added that there is "certainly an openness to whatever the judge suggests."
No Comment From Official
Sheriff's Lt. Richard J. Olson said that since he had not heard the judge's recommendations, he would not comment.
Attorney Richard P. Herman, who represents several inmates suing the county over jail conditions and policies, said he welcomed Gray's suggestion because it would result in "a complete review of operations at the jail."
Conditions at the Orange County Jail have been under continuous review since March, 1985, when Gray appointed a special master to monitor jail overcrowding. Lawrence G. Grossman, a former federal prison warden, has access to all jail facilities and records and has made numerous recommendations to Gray.
At Monday's hearing, Gray issued several tentative rulings in response to Herman's requests. Gray ruled that inmates subjected to disciplinary hearings for violating jail rules should have the right to call witnesses to testify on their behalf. And, he ruled that while unruly inmates may be segregated from the general population before such a hearing, they should not lose privileges or be disciplined in advance.
Herman also asked Gray to broaden the access jail inmates have to other inmates who serve as "jailhouse lawyers."
However, other than to suggest that inmates be allowed to share legal papers, Gray declined to rule, saying, "I don't want to encourage jailhouse lawyering."
He said no further court orders were necessary because the jail already has a policy "not to prevent jailhouse lawyering."
Gray also reminded Duran that the sheriff should inform inmates about the right to vote in elections. And, he said inmates must be informed that they may request a written review of their housing assignment every 30 days. Herman said inmates frequently want to change locations but are not told how to request a move.
After the hearing, Jail Commander Capt. Al Massucci said Gray's newest rulings involved "nothing new--nothing that has not been litigated before." When he finished ruling on the jail issues, Gray slammed his fist on the bench and reprimanded Herman and Duran, longtime courtroom adversaries, for acting like "sixth-graders."
"Litigation of this kind is difficult enough without this scrapping," Gray said. He mentioned a previous name-calling incident but declined to provide details and ordered the attorneys not to discuss it.
Gray said he has never held an attorney in contempt but promised to do so if Herman and Duran continued to call each other names.