Jail Shifts Inmates to ‘Tent City’ at Musick
About 200 Orange County jail inmates were moved into tents at the James A. Musick Honor Farm during the weekend in the latest attempt by county officials to comply with a federal court order to reduce crowding at the central jail in Santa Ana.
The inmate shuffling was completed Saturday as county attorneys prepared to ask U.S. District Judge William Gray to postpone levying $10-a-day fines for each inmate at the central jail forced to sleep more than one night on mattresses placed on the floor or benches.
County attorneys on Friday filed papers in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles asking that Gray wait until July 5 before deciding whether the county should be fined for violating his 1978 order to reduce crowding at the main jail.
County Counsel Adrian Kuyper said that by that date no inmate should be forced to sleep more than one night without a bed.
Gray’s contempt citation, effective as of May 17, specifies that the county would be assessed $10-per-day for each inmate forced to sleep without a bunk. He also fined the county an additional $50,000.
The judge is expected on Monday to disclose the amount the county owes, at which time county attorneys will ask for the 45-day delay.
In an effort to comply with Gray’s order, deputies on Saturday afternoon moved about 100 sentenced inmates from the main jail into tents at the Musick Honor Farm near El Toro, according to jail Lt. J. S. Mitchell.
On Friday night, about 110 “weekend” inmates who normally reported to the Theo Lacy Branch Jail in Orange were ordered to check into the Musick facility. They, too, spent the night in tents set up at the honor farm.
Mitchell said the inmates who were moved from the main jail to the minimum-security facility were serving sentences for minor, non-violent crimes.
200 More to Be Moved
Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates said that about 200 more inmates will be moved to the tent village within the next two weeks. He said that about 50 jail deputies will be transferred from the central jail to the Musick facility to increase security and help officials operate the tent village.
The 50-man loss at the main jail will be made up with reserve officers and deputies working overtime, he said.
When Gray found the county in contempt last March there were about 2,000 inmates at the central jail, a facility built to house about 1,200 prisoners.
Since that time the county has been moving inmates to Theo Lacy and the Musick Honor Farm, installing additional fencing at Lacy to tighten security and setting up six tents at Musick to house prisoners.
Lawrence Grossman, a retired federal prison warden assigned by
Gray to oversee inmate conditions, said the central jail population on Thursday was 1,639, the lowest at the facility in more than two years. He said 104 inmates were forced to sleep more than one night without a bunk.
Deputy Counsel Edward Duran said in the court papers filed Friday that the county had taken “substantial” steps to alleviate jail crowding.
He said the county has reduced by 58% the number of inmates without beds and by 70% the number of inmates without beds longer than one day.
The county has increased the number of bunks to 1,607 by rearranging jail dormitories and installing additional double and triple-tiered bunks, Duran said in the court documents.
Not all the beds can be used, he said, because some inmates must be isolated from other prisoners.
“There is every reason to believe that by July 5, 1985, every inmate will have a bunk or bed on which to sleep after his first night in jail,” he said.