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Let Inmates Sleep, Judge Says

Medication is at 2:30am, breakfast at 4, cell checks hourly
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2019 6:29 PM CDT
Inmates in a county jail in California say they can't sleep more than an hour or two at a time during the night.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Waking up county jail inmates at 2:30am for medication and 4am for breakfast probably violates the Constitution, a federal judge in California says. He wants jailers to revise their schedule to allow for fewer interruptions during the night and more sleep, the Courthouse News Service reports. The lead plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit, two women who are jailed while awaiting trial, said the interruptions make it difficult to get more than an hour or two of sleep at a time at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, about 40 miles from San Francisco. The plaintiffs also say lights are left on 'round the clock, and hourly safety checks required by the state include guards shining lights in the inmates' eyes and banging their keys on cell doors to wake inmates. During the night, new employees undergoing training sometimes enter cells, force inmates to lie face-down on the floor, handcuff them and move them to other parts of the jail, the suit says.

"I do not see why people are poked and probed at three in the morning," Judge James Donato said at a preliminary hearing, per the Chronicle. In issuing a preliminary injunction Wednesday, he said some jail practices probably violate the Fourteenth Amendment, though others might not be out of line. He told both sides to come up with changes to the schedule, and he wants to see the new plan April 11. When the state holds a person for any reason, Donato said, "the Constitution imposes a duty to provide for the detainee's basic human needs." The lead plaintiffs, he said, haven't been convicted of anything, per the Washington Post, and sleep deprivation has been found to be cruel and unusual punishment for convicts. The inmates say exhaustion makes it difficult for them to help their lawyers prepare their cases. Sleep, the judge wrote, is "critical to human existence." (Sleep-deprived brain cells slow down, a study found.)

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