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Lawsuit Spurs Contra Costa County to Spend $250 Million on Jail Health Care

MARTINEZ (CBS/AP) -- Contra Costa County will spend $250 million to increase staffing and improve health care at its jails after a lawsuit alleged inmates with physical and mental problems were being neglected, including some who were potentially suicidal.

The county reached an agreement Thursday calling for spending the money over five years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

"These changes will save countless lives, reduce the suffering of people confined in the jails and increase public safety," said Corene Kendrick, an attorney with the Prison Law Office, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of some inmates.

Contra Costa County Jail - Martinez Detention Facility
Martinez Detention Facility. (Google Street View)

The county has around 800 inmates in its jails.

During negotiations over the case, medical experts hired by the county criticized its mental health system and procedures for drug and alcohol treatment, the Chronicle said.

One expert said the jails lacked proper cells and treatment for potentially suicidal inmates, according to the report.

One plaintiff said he had injuries that made walking painful but was denied a cane for three months. Another inmate with mental illness said guards refused to take him to medical staff despite him repeatedly pressing an emergency medical button in his cell.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS San Francisco contributed to this report

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