Sheriff's Officials Fail to Curb Abuse by Deputies And Overcrowding at L.A. County Jail, Says ACLU

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Eileen White Read or Diana Rubio, ACLU of Southern California, (213) 977-5252
Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Sheriff's Officials Fail to Curb Abuse by Deputies And Overcrowding at L.A. County Jail, Says ACLU

Latest ACLU Report Documents Continued Use of Unjustified Force by Deputies and Lack of Access to Mental Health Care

LOS ANGELES - The
American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Southern California
(ACLU/SC) today released a report documenting disturbing conditions and
abuses in the Los Angeles County jail system, including excessive and
unjustified force by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, retaliation
against prisoners for communicating with the ACLU, a lack of access to
mental health care and severe overcrowding.

The report, based on interviews with
dozens of detainees during the first eight months of this year, paints a
stark picture of unacceptable levels of violence in the jails,
including reports of deputies beating handcuffed prisoners, injuring
some so badly that they ended up in intensive care. The report also
shows that retaliation against prisoners is an acute problem. Several
prisoners have been severely punished for meeting with representatives
of the ACLU, which is the court-appointed monitor of conditions inside
L.A.'s county jails. This pattern of retaliation results in prisoners
being afraid to speak freely with the ACLU about conditions in the
jails. 

"This report makes clear that deputy
abuse and retaliation is not limited to a few isolated instances, but is
instead a significant problem that has developed over decades and
characterizes Men's Central Jail and other jails run by the Los Angeles
County sheriff," said Peter Eliasberg, Managing Attorney of the ACLU/SC.
"What is even more troubling is that the ACLU has been reporting these
problems for a number of years, but they continue to fester or get
worse."

One prisoner reported being attacked
by a group of deputies on his way back from church because he failed to
put his hands in his pockets, though his jail-issued clothing had none.
Deputies beat him so badly they left him with several broken ribs, a
fractured nose and a swollen artery in his brain. Another prisoner told
ACLU jail monitors that a sheriff's deputy punched him in the face for
having his shirt untucked and asking for a new pair of shoes.

"There is a strong link between the
massive over-incarceration in the L.A. County jails and the terrifying
subculture of deputy violence and abuse at Men's Central," said Margaret
Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. "The
cure will require finding safe alternatives to locking up low-risk
detainees who are awaiting trial."

The report follows a series of
troubling outside reports of serious misconduct at the jail. Most
recently, a former jailhouse deputy was sentenced to four years in
prison for attempting to smuggle drugs inside the jail. And just a month
ago, the Office of Independent Review for the County of Los Angeles
issued a report uncovering a deliberate and systematic cover-up
involving at least 10 deputies who falsified surveillance logs in order
to hide the fact that Willie Horton, an inmate with severe mental
illness, hung himself in his cell while the supervising deputies were at
the jail's gym working out or at a nearby restaurant making a "chow
run."
 
Taken together with the ACLU report,
these incidents paint a picture of a jail with lax deputy supervision
and little accountability that gives rise to negligence, abuse and
violence. Today's report was prompted, in part, by the overwhelming
response of former and current prisoners to the ACLU's May 2010 report
on conditions inside Men's Central Jail. The May report, which covered
2009, provided a broad overview of the overcrowded conditions, woefully
inadequate care of those with mental disabilities and deputy on inmate
retaliation and violence. Today's report provides an update on those
conditions.

A copy of today's report is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/2010-interim-report-conditions-inside-los-angeles-county-jail

The report issued last May is also available online at: www.aclu.org/files/assets/2010-5-5-AnnualReport-JailConditionsatMCJ.pdf

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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