The Orange County Young Democrats are deeply troubled by recent reports documenting widespread inmate abuse at the Santa Ana City Jail. We urge the Santa Ana City Council to convert the facility to serve other purposes, including treating mental health patients.
The Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a report in December which documented widespread abuses at a number of facilities housing immigrant detainees, including the Santa Ana City Jail. The report highlighted evidence of delayed medical care and staff mistreatment of inmates at the Santa Ana facility. In addition, the non-profit organization Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) has documented numerous unnecessary strip searches, excessive disciplinary actions, and unhygienic food at the jail.
Abuses at the jail are not the only reasons the facility should be repurposed. The Santa Ana City Jail, a for-profit facility which charges to house inmates, sat nearly empty following the termination of Santa Ana’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Despite a new contract with the U.S. Marshals, the jail is still not expected to be more than 71 percent full — leaving nearly 30 percent of available capacity unused. Surely, the capacity at the Santa Ana City Jail can be more efficiently utilized — and more focused on providing core services to Santa Ana residents.
Orange County has significant needs for mental health treatment capacity. The number of mental health treatment beds dropped in Orange County from 1,217 in 1995 to a mere 481 in 2017. The inmates currently in the Santa Ana jail could be housed in the Orange County jail at no cost to the city, making available much needed capacity for mental healthcare treatment.
The city of Santa Ana should not be in the businesses of incarceration. Rather, the Orange County Young Democrats strongly urge the Santa Ana City Council (Mayor Miguel Pulido, Michele Martinez, Vincent Sarmiento, Jose Solorio, David Benavides, Juan Villegas, Salvador Tinajero) to consider repurposing the facility such that core services, such as treatment for mental health patients, are provided for Santa Ana residents.