WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that District Court Judge David C. Godbey has granted the request of the department and Dallas County to end court supervision of a lawsuit concerning conditions at the Dallas County Jail. The department and the county had entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement in 2007 that required specific remedial measures be taken at the Dallas County Jail regarding medical care, mental health care, sanitation and environmental health to alleviate conditions that violated the constitutional rights of individuals confined to the jail.
In light of the progress the county has made in complying with the agreed order regarding the conditions at the jail, the United States has joined Dallas County in filing a notice of termination ending court oversight. Dallas County has implemented the remedial measures so that inmates at the jail are safe and receive the services necessary to meet their constitutional rights.
Dallas County Jail is the seventh largest jail in the United States. The average daily census is more than 6300 inmates with more than 100,000 people being booked-in per year. Approximately 50 percent of the inmates at intake have acute or chronic medical/mental health conditions, including approximately 22 percent with mental health conditions.
As a result of the agreed order, more than 6,000 inmates are now seen monthly in 12 jail clinics ranging from dialysis, respiratory care, dental, orthopedic, to HIV and infection disease management and more than 3200 inmates receive medications daily. The number of deaths at the jail has decreased by 45 percent. Staffing levels in all medical disciplines have been increased (almost doubled) and are now adequate to provide services.
Key essential health services are now being provided including: health screening for all inmates upon arrival and then on a yearly basis; TB screening for all inmates; acute and intermediate medical in-patient care; chronic and urgent in-patient care; acute and intermediate mental health in-patient care; crisis stabilization, chronic mental health care; and a nationally recognized suicide prevention program.
In 2006, the Justice Department issued a findings letter that highlighted that prior to the agreed order, inmates died and suffered unnecessary injuries due to the lack of adequate medical and mental health care being provided at the jail. The jail’s intake screening process failed to identify the health needs of incoming inmates, notwithstanding the population’s particular vulnerabilities to mental illness and suicide. Health assessments were rarely completed. As a result, inmates failed to receive adequate care for urgent and/or emergent medical conditions. Inmates with communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases were not appropriately screened, treated, or isolated.
“We commend Sheriff Valdez, Dallas County, Parkland Hospital and jail staff for their willingness to work aggressively to address the problems found. It is a jurisdiction’s basic responsibility to protect those persons in its custody from harm. We have worked cooperatively with Dallas County officials to ensure that the constitutional rights of Dallas County Jail inmates are protected,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “We also want to make sure that jurisdictions understand that when they act in good faith and comply with a settlement, the United States will join in seeking the end of court oversight,” said Perez.
“This agreed order was designed to protect the rights of the inmates at the Dallas County Jail,” said Sarah Saldaña, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. “We thank the county and the sheriff for their cooperation in achieving this important goal.”
The case was litigated by the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. In addition, the division received support and assistance from John R. Parker, Civil Division Chief from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.