Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates has submitted the names of three candidates to U.S. District Judge William P. Gray for appointment as special master to monitor overcrowded conditions at the Orange County men’s jail in downtown Santa Ana, but none of the names is satisfactory to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is leading a class-action suit against the sheriff over jail conditions.
Gray last week found Gates and the county supervisors in criminal contempt for not doing enough to reduce overcrowding. Up to 500 inmates each day are sleeping on the floor of the men’s jail because there isn’t enough bunk space. The judge fined the county $50,000 but said the money was to go toward the cost of a special master he will appoint soon.
The ACLU has recommended Paul Sutton, a criminal justice administration professor at San Diego State University. But Gates opposes him because Sutton is on the ACLU’s executive board in San Diego County.
The three candidates suggested by Gates are Ed Smith, assistant executive director of the state Board of Corrections (or a Smith designee), Thomas Lonergan, a jail consultant from Los Angeles, and Gordon Yach, director of the Clark County Jail in Las Vegas, Nev.
Richard Herman, the ACLU attorney who brought the court action against Gates, said he opposes Lonergan because his firm, Criminal Justice Consultants Inc., has worked for Gates in the past. “Obviously it didn’t do a lot of good,” Herman said.
Herman opposes Smith and Yach because they don’t live within commuting distance of Orange County.
Another candidate is Gary Proctor, a Santa Ana criminal attorney who is also chairman of the Orange County Airport Commission. The county counsel’s office agreed to pass Proctor’s name on to Judge Gray for consideration. Proctor was not a suggestion of Gates or the ACLU. Proctor told The Times that in his application he said he would do the job for free, and the $50,000 could be used to alleviate the overcrowding problem.