Female inmates sue Calif. jail for right to sleep

Security checks, maintenance work and 3 a.m. pill calls are among the reasons the inmates cite for their inability to get a full night’s sleep

By CorrectionsOne Staff

DUBLIN, Calif.  — A group of female inmates are suing a California prison for their right to sleep.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the inmates say the level of sleep deprivation has crossed the line into cruel and unusual punishment.

Security checks, maintenance work and 3 a.m. pill calls all affect the inmates not getting a full night’s rest.

“I do not see why people are poked and probed at three in the morning,” U.S. District Judge James Donato said at a preliminary hearing at a federal court.

State law requires safety checks on inmates at least every hour, but according to a lawsuit, inmates report flashlights beaming into their eyes, COs banging on metal doors with keys and officers yelling their names. Vacuuming and repairs outside of cells are also complaints.

The inmates are theoretically allowed around five hours of sleep per night, but the inmates’ attorneys say it’s nearly impossible as lights go out at 11 p.m. and breakfast starts at 4 a.m. 

One of the inmate’s attorneys says her sleep deprivation amplified a short temper and led to solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

County attorney Gregory Thomas argues that some disruptions are necessary for safety or logistics. Some inmates have diabetes and need to take medication at 3 a.m., and it wouldn’t be reasonable to separate them from other prisoners.

He also noted that first breakfast call at 4 a.m. is for the jail’s need of time to transport inmates.

Donato questioned the 3 a.m. pill call and also asked why the jail didn’t consider providing inmates with sleep masks and ear plugs.

“I think it’s kind of presumptive,” Donato said. “You’ve got to get some sleep. It’s just like eating, drinking or breathing.”

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