Individuals in Los Angeles County’s jails and juvenile halls and camps are housed in dense quarters with reduced access to hand sanitizer and soap, making it more difficult to practice good hygiene and social distancing while in detention. This could make pregnant incarcerated women, individuals with underlying medical conditions, and older adults with compromised immune systems even more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and transmitting it to others within the County’s criminal justice facilities. In response, the Board of Supervisors today approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, to enhance efforts to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in County jails and at juvenile halls and camps.

“Individuals at our custody facilities return to their local communities within days or weeks, leaving the possibility that they may spread COVID-19 if exposed to the virus by another incarcerated person or staff member,” said Supervisor Solis. “To gain an upper hand on this highly contagious virus, we must vigilantly protect those in our custody and make sure our employees who work at these facilities are kept safe and healthy. Economically disadvantaged communities make up the majority of our incarcerated population, and they are the people who suffer the most from limited access to high-quality health care.”

“Reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading within Los Angeles County’s jail system, as well as in the juvenile halls and probation camps, is critical for protecting those who are in the County’s care as well as for ensuring the safety of thousands of personnel who work in those facilities,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With this motion, the Board is committing to further reducing the number of adults and youth incarcerated as a prevention strategy, enhancing screening and hygiene, and increasing protections for vulnerable populations like the elderly, pregnant women, and other individuals with compromised immune systems. We are in unprecedented times where lives are at stake, and must do everything possible to protect vulnerable populations, including those in the County’s custody.”

Without a vaccine, physical distancing is our most effective tool in containing the spread of COVID-19. In recent weeks, the Office of the Public Defender, the Sheriff, the District Attorney, County health departments, County courts, and other pertinent departments, met to discuss how they could safely reduce the number of people detained at County jails and youth facilities, while maintaining public safety. Though maintaining the recommended six feet of distance remains difficult, reducing the incarcerated population will allow for designated quarantine sites for those exposed to the virus.

With today’s motion, all people entering the County’s jail system and juvenile halls, including staff, will be vigilantly screened to ensure appropriate staffing levels and treatment are made available should individuals become infected. The Board motion also directs personnel to allow increased handwashing and hygiene practices and increased access to cleaning supplies at these facilities. In addition, the motion directs pertinent County Departments to increase virtual contact between people in custody and their families. Lastly, the Board motion instructs the County to help provide housing resources to those who are newly released to minimize the chance they may become homeless.