Thursday, January 12, 2012

Suit Claims Gay Inmates Denied Access to Rehab

via Advocate, by Julie Bolcer

The Riverside County, Calif. jail system’s policy of separating gay inmates from the general population effectively bars them from accessing a drug rehabilitation program, a lawsuit alleges.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the suit filed by Michael Lamar Salomonson of Palm Springs. A chronic methamphetamine user, he was arrested and charged with burglarizing a home last year.

He was sent to a residential substance abuse program at the Banning detention center instead of a receiving a two-year jail sentence.

“But sheriff’s officials refused to enroll Salmonson in the program,” according to the Times. “Under jail policy, inmates who enter into county jails and disclose they are gay are placed into protective custody and separated from the general jail population.”

The attorney for Salmonson said inmates in protective custody are routinely unable to access the rehab program.

The suit does not challenge the policy of placing gay inmates in protective custody, but it seeks to make sure gay inmates in protective custody are accepted into the rehab program.

Sheriff’s Chief Dep. Jerry Gutierrez, supervisor of the county jails, said inmates are housed together in the intense six-month treatment program, which limits the service to the general population.

Officials want to avoid the “volatile situation” that could be created by enrolling protective custody inmates, a population that also includes individuals with “medical disabilities, victims of jail assaults and inmates convicted of sexually assaulting children.”

The program could be expanded if enough protective custody inmates qualify for rehab, he told the Times.

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