Bill proposes changing jail discharge options

The LA County Sheriff's Department is promoting the idea of postponing late-night jail releases for safety reasons.
January 27, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is promoting the idea of postponing late-night jail releases for the safety of those released.

Mitrice Richardson was 24 years old when she disappeared after being released from the Los Angeles County Lost Hills Sheriff's Station in 2009. Her body was found months later in the Malibu Canyon area.

The sheriff's department came under fire for releasing Richardson, who was reportedly acting erratically, at 12:30 a.m. from the remote Lost Hills Station with no cellphone, money, transportation or identification.

State Senator Carol Liu introduced senate bill SB 833 this month in response to that case as a way to prevent other unsafe releases in the middle of the night. It was authored by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

"What it basically does, it gives the sheriff's department and county jails options," said L.A. County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore. "We can voluntarily, if the inmate agrees, we can hold them up to 16 hours until we can connect them to a treatment facility, mental institution or someplace where they can be safe."

"This is just a way to try to alleviate someebody getting into harm's way," said Liu.

"I know for a fact it would save lives: Number one, because if my daughter would have been under that, she would be here today," said Michael Richardson, Mitrice's father.

While Mitrice's father supports the bill, Dr. Rhonda Hampton, who knew Mitrice well and has closely followed the case, says the voluntary bill doesn't go far enough to protect mentally unstable inmates.

"We need to recognize that when people are released in the middle of the night, or in any other way that is unsafe for them, it is a danger not only to them as individuals, but it's a danger for society at large," said Dr. Hampton, Mitrice's mentor. "So no, this would not have helped Mitrice. I believe it would not have helped anybody who was mentally compromised."

If the bill is approved, the law would go into effect January 2015.


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