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Alameda Inmates Win Right to Sleep In

Dark and grungy prison cell at night
By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

A class action lawsuit out of Northern District Court of California alleges that inmates in Alameda County jail are suffering from cruel and unusual punishment due to lack of sleep. As if jail wasn't bad enough already, the complaint alleges that inmates barely get 4 hours on a good night.

In short, the inmates claim that the amount of time provided for them to sleep at night is insufficient and is regularly interrupted. The complaint states that lights out starts at 11 pm, and at 2:30 am prisoners who require medication (and everyone else basically) are woken up using loudspeakers, and breakfast starts at 4 am. Compounding the problems of the short four-to-five-hour sleep schedule, it is also alleged that loud maintenance work often occurs during lights out, making it even more difficult for inmates to sleep. But that will soon be changing.

Lights Out Extended

Fortunately for the inmates, the federal judge assigned to the case has agreed to issue a preliminary injunction providing one additional hour of lights out on the weekdays, and two more hours on the weekends and court holidays. The preliminary injunction also prohibits overnight maintenance work as well as the absurdly early pill-calls.

The judge did not find the county's arguments compelling that the 3 am pill call was medically necessary as certain meds are required to be taken a certain amount of time before eating, and that breakfast needed to start at 4 am in order to ensure inmates due in court that day would have adequate time to be transported.

Best Interest of All

Despite prison cells not being known for their comfort, even the judge recognized that it is in everyone’s best interest to allow the inmates to get more sleep, as sleep deprived individuals can be much more irritable and uncooperative due to their sleep-deprived state. Early reports indicate that jail officials will comply with the preliminary injunction for all county facilities. Lights out will now run from 11 pm to 5 am on weekdays, and 11 pm to 6 am on weekends and holidays.

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