By Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - Riverside County will add staff and use telemedicine in its five jails to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged serious lapses in medical and mental health care.

The settlement was announced Friday and must be approved by a federal judge overseeing the case, the Riverside Press-Enterprise ( reported.

The tentative deal with the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, which had sued on behalf of four inmates, includes the expansion of telemedicine and telepsychiatry for the county’s roughly 3,900 inmates.

Consulting with doctors and mental health specialists in remote locations using video conferencing will alleviate pressure on jail medical staff, authorities said.

County officials say the settlement will cost millions of dollars annually, but the exact cost remains unclear, according to The Desert Sun ( ).

Court-appointed experts will monitor the county’s compliance with the settlement, which drew praise from Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley.

“The county is committed to the terms of the settlement and implementing them as soon as possible,” Ashley said in a printed statement.

The legal watchdog has sued numerous California counties over jail conditions, and was one of several firms to file suit against the state prison system over severe overcrowding.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a court order that forced California to reduce its prison population by 33,000. That led to realignment, which shifted responsibility for certain low-level, non-violent offenders from the state to counties.

Riverside County officials said in Friday’s release that the added inmate population stressed its jails, which were already under a court-ordered population cap.

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