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Lawyers allege poor conditions at Northern California jail after a spate of suicide attempts

Lawyers representing inmates at a Northern California county jail say at least 41 suicide attempts in the last 2 ½ years are one sign of continued dangerous conditions nearly 40 years after officials promised improvements.

The attorneys for inmates at Yuba County Jail in Marysville have asked a federal judge to enforce a nearly 40-year-old court order, citing what they say are deteriorating conditions that have led to dozens of suicide attempts.

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The jail is again rife with constitutional violations that have resulted in poor treatment of physically and mentally ill inmates, the attorneys said in a federal court filing Monday.

Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Leslie Carbah said she couldn't comment on the pending legal action. She referred questions to the county counsel's office, which did not respond to telephone messages.

The lawyers allege that mentally ill inmates are often isolated in windowless cells for weeks at a time or housed in "rubber rooms" filthy with blood and feces at the jail about 40 miles north of Sacramento.

Many of the prisoners are awaiting trial and have been convicted of no crime, according to the filing by attorneys with the UC Davis School of Law and the San Francisco firm of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld.

The court motion says about half the jail's 426 beds are filled by immigration detainees under a contract with the U.S. government.

A separate complaint by the San Francisco firm targeting poor conditions in state prisons helped force changes that include a 5-year-old law that sends lower-level felons to county jails.

County sheriffs frequently complain that they are poorly prepared to deal with serious, long-term offenders who they say often have mental health issues.

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