- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A settlement between the federal government and Los Angeles County fails to require adequate services for mentally ill and homeless inmates after their release, perpetuating the cycle between Skid Row and jail cells, according to a legal action filed by former prisoners on Monday.

The action, a motion to intervene filed in federal court, argues that the Department of Justice settlement fails to address the needs of mentally ill prisoners in the Los Angeles County jail system, the nation’s largest.

The motion seeks to modify the Sept. 3 settlement to beef up provisions requiring the county to provide inmates with access to medical and mental health services.

“The continuous jail-to-Skid Row-to-jail cycle responsible for the perpetuation of our crisis of homelessness is the shame of our community,” said Mark Rosenbaum, one of the attorneys who filed the motion.

County spokesman Joel Sappell said the county had not had an opportunity to review the action and would have no comment.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said the department would review the motion.

Under the settlement, the county is required to conduct discharge planning for mentally ill inmates who are being released, and provide them with information about mental health providers.

But in practice, that often means handing inmates with a list of providers and releasing them with little more than the clothes on their backs and no transportation, Rosenbaum said.

“This protocol is a meaningless gesture for paranoid schizophrenics or others who are severely mentally ill, who are mentally and psychiatrically incapable of deciphering such a list or navigating what must be done to receive services or medications,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s the equivalent of handing out lists written in hieroglyphics.”

Moreover, he said the providers listed are frequently overburdened and unable to help new clients.

LePriest Valentine, a 42-year-old former Skid Row resident who said he went to county jail three times last year for petty theft, said that each time he was released, no one gave him information about services or prescriptions for his bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Valentine, one of the people filing Monday’s action, said it was only through a cousin living on Skid Row that he learned about a program that provides housing and services to the mentally ill in Los Angeles.

Now Valentine said he’s managing his illnesses with medication, working part-time and planning on returning to school to become a full-time social worker to help people like him.

Without the program that got him out of Skid Row, Valentine said he’d probably still be cycling between the jail and the street.

“You’re trying, but a couple more days you’re out there and then the desperation kicks in and you go back to your desperate acts,” he said. “It’s like going back into the fire.”


Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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