Federal judge orders new safety measures in O.C. jails, but denies inmate releases over virus threat

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The Central Jail in Santa Ana is seen in an undated photo. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The Central Jail in Santa Ana is seen in an undated photo. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge ruled that Orange County’s sheriff acted with deliberate indifference toward the safety of inmates and ordered new social distancing requirements in the jails to combat spread of the coronavirus.

But the decision by U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal Tuesday denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California to release 468 medical vulnerable inmates at risk of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Sheriff Don Barnes said his department will appeal the court order.

“While I appreciate that the Court did not grant the ACLU’s request to release inmates into our community, I am disappointed that the Court has ordered us to implement measures which are not mandated by law or regulation,” Barnes said. “I have taken seriously the threat of COVID-19 in our jails. The department has implemented CDC guidelines in our facilities, and in many instances have done more than their recommendations, long before this lawsuit was filed.”

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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