Jail isn’t known to be a particularly pleasant experience for those locked inside, but it also shouldn’t be a place so poorly run it borders on dangerous. A correctional facility is meant to be a place of confinement, recompense, and fair trial. Instead jails across the country have been reported with unkempt spaces, roach-infested kitchens, backed-up toilets, and, in many locations, inconsistent medical care. Such jails have crossed the line from correcting behavior to inhumane practices. For inmates, jail has become a neglectful, allegedly abusive, and in some cases, fatal home. And what’s more important to know is that inmates also have rights.
Recent Jail Deaths in Riverside County, California
In California’s Riverside County Jails, 18 deaths were reported in 2022, alone, says the Los Angeles Times. In the case of Richard Matus, Jr., who was detained in the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta, medical treatment came too late. A few hours after speaking to his mother on the phone, Matus was found unresponsive in his cell due to a fentanyl and alcohol overdose, says the article. According to the family’s lawsuit against the jail, Matus had been “experiencing a medical emergency for an appreciable amount of time.” Authorities also do not know where the substances came from or if they were taken voluntarily. Matus was sent to jail after being arrested for accused murder during a robbery of a marijuana dispensary, said the article. Maintaining his innocence, Matus spent four years in jail awaiting his court date to take his case to trial.
Matus is not the first, or the last, inmate to die of drug overdose in Riverside County jails. His family is just the first to sue the jail for bad medical services. In light of the recent deaths (six from overdose, three suicides, four of natural causes, and two undetermined), the state’s attorney general launched an investigation over allegations of “excessive force and inhumane jail conditions,” said LA Times. Sheriff Chad Bianco believes this investigation to be a great time and resource waster.
Violence and Unsanitary Conditions
The deaths and disheveled environments in California’s Riverside County jails are, unfortunately, not becoming unusual, says The Marshall Project. Beyond California, New York, Virginia, Tennessee, and Washington, among others, have jails with surging violence, unsanitary practices, including urine in the food and excrement on the floors from backed up toilets, and mental and physical abuse, says the article. Particularly in the last few months, a lot of the problem is due to overcrowding and understaffing.
A few months into the pandemic, inmate numbers dropped 25% because of lockdown, however, once restrictions were loosened and people began going out again, the numbers overflowed. By summer 2022, there were so many detainees, some were placed in underground tunnels, common areas without toilets, or on the floor to sleep.
Medical negligence has also been an issue in jails at this time. This year, Rikers Island inmate Herman Diaz, choked to death on an orange. Other inmates tried to help Diaz, however, staff did not respond, reports The Daily Beast. Another inmate, Damian Lopez, in Harris County jail in Houston, died of COVID in 2022. His family was not notified until his condition was so severe he was unconscious and on a ventilator, says ABC13. In Anoka County Detention in Minnesota, inmate Riley Domeier was found dead in his cell during a wellbeing check. No nurse was on staff when there should have been, reported KARE11.
The downhill trend in jails across the country has officials worried how we treat our inmates and correctional facility staff alike, says NPR. The article reports that the problems, as well as the solutions, are not confined to jail walls, but rather the system as a whole.
Remember: Inmates Have the Right to Proper Medical Care
If you or a family member has suffered in prison or detainment due to medical neglect, physical abuse or have experience major injuries while in jail, please contact the Sehat Law Firm. We are the experts on the law but we’re on your side. It can be an intimidating and daunting process to stand up against abuse of power but we are here with you every step of the way. Contact us for a free consultation: (949) 825-5200