With nearly three dozen Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department court transportation buses out of service, some incarcerated people are missing important court dates or forced to stay in county jails longer, according to a court employee and multiple public defenders in courtrooms across the county.
The Sheriff’s Department confirmed Thursday that 32 out of a total of 82 buses that transport incarcerated people to and from L.A. County courthouses were in the repair shop “for various reason[s].” That means nearly 40% of the fleet was unusable.
LAist spoke or texted with five public defenders and a court employee for this story who spoke to us on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly. They say the transportation shortage has wreaked havoc on courtroom schedules.
The court employee told us that one judge had to order a special extraction order to ensure that one woman made it to court after days of transportation issues.
‘Never Seen It So Bad’
“I have never seen it so bad,” the employee said, adding that they’d worked in the court system for decades. “Every day, you’re having multiple people missing.”
The Sheriff’s Department has a roughly $22 million contract with Centerra Integrated Services, LLC, for maintenance services.
A mechanic at a downtown L.A. Centerra garage ticked down the list of out-of-
service jail transportation buses over the phone with me on Thursday. In total, he said there were 26 buses in his garage, and three more at different vendors — more than double what he usually sees.
The mechanic said a garage near Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic usually helps service LASD buses, but some employees there have been sidelined by COVID-19.
L.A. Superior Court referred questions about the lack of bus transportation to the Sheriff’s Department. The department acknowledged recent “bus availability challenges,” but said in a statement that lack of transportation is “very rarely” the reason defendants miss a court date. It said it is unaware of anyone who has missed a court date solely due to the recent bus shortage.