The union that represents Orange County sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday announced an agreement with the department to address concerns raised in a lawsuit alleging that unsafe jail conditions and staff reductions led to the high-profile escape of three inmates in 2016.
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and department leaders have agreed to meet beginning Feb. 27 to come up with a “clear path to implement jail staffing and security reforms,” according to a union statement announcing the settlement.
escape, that leadership just did what that individual thought was appropriate at the time in complete ignorance of policy and procedures.”
Dominguez said Sheriff Don Barnes will come to the table himself, noting, “Instead of giving us lip service, he agreed to this.”
Barnes noted that changes already implemented, including new managers, have brought more accountability to the operation of jail facilities.
“Three years removed from the jail escape, the department has made significant progress in securing our jail facilities,” Barnes said. “Today’s settlement is recognition of that progress.”
“I believe that we have one of the best jail systems in the nation but will continue to improve and address the challenges of both our aging facilities coupled with legislative changes like AB109,” Barnes added, referring to a 2011 bill that led to more inmates serving time in local lockups rather than state prisons.
The lawsuit was filed weeks after inmates Hossein Nayeri, 37, Jonathan Tieu, 20, and Bac Tien Duong, 43, broke out of the Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana by cutting through steel bars and a metal grate, climbing through a sewage tunnel on their way to the jail’s roof, then using a makeshift rope of bed sheets to climb down five stories. They were recaptured a week later.
The lawsuit alleged that reduced staffing meant no deputy was assigned to the roof of the jail the night of the escape, which went undetected for 15 hours. The lawsuit also contended that contractors screened by non-sworn employees may have left behind construction equipment in areas accessible by inmates, and that unreliable radios hampered deputies’ ability to communicate with each other.
According to the deputies union, among the items the department has agreed to discuss are working conditions at jail facilities, jointly reviewing safety and equipment every six months, completing the installation of a portable cameras system in housing and plumbing tunnels at the Central Men’s Jail and completing the installation of a “radio-frequency identification” inmate tracking system.
Staffing in the jails has already been bulked up since the escape, according to the union, and new supervisors have been added to the jail ranks. But union officials say jail safety is still a concern, pointing to the recent attack by dozens of inmates that left two deputies injured.