ACLU Calls For Sheriff Resignation Over Inmate Abuse Claims
The ACLU is the court-appointed monitor of L.A. County jails. They released their annual report on the county jail system Wednesday. This year’s report is the first in which civilians have come forward as witnesses. Two jail chaplains, a volunteer tutor and an ACLU Southern California employee reported deputies abusing non-resisting inmates.
“Now we have chaplains and other civilians coming forward who have seen the brutality themselves, and their declarations vindicate the claims of prisoners,” ACLU legal director Peter Eliasberg told the Los Angeles Times. “This report clearly demonstrates that there is a salient pattern of unprovoked, excessive force and abuse against inmates, many of whom are not resisting."
The call for Baca’s resignation and report’s release coincide with the recent controversy surrounding FBI agents slipping a cell phone to a Men’s Central Jail inmate acting as an informant. The FBI is investigating allegations of inmate abuse and deputy misconduct in L.A. County jails, the L.A. Times reported.
Baca said he takes inmate mistreatment seriously, ABC reported, and cited the firing of 16 deputies in the last three years.
“I will not tolerate excessive violence in the Los Angeles County jails,” Baca said to ABC. “The core values of the sheriff’s department are humanitarian, civil rights-related core values. Our goal is to out-ACLU the ACLU.”
The ACLU claims Baca has covered up and ignored repeated claims of brutality.
“[Sheriff Baca] has been in office for four terms now, so he’s had an opportunity to fix the problem but has been willfully ignorant or completely unwilling to acknowledge the truth,” said Jason Howe, director of communications at ACLU Southern California.
Baca held a press conference Wednesday after the ACLU called for his resignation. He said the vast majority of violence in jails is initiated by inmates, the L.A. Times reported. Baca again called for Men’s Central Jail to be torn down and replaced.
“The jail itself isn’t really the problem,” Howe said. “The problem is the staff and the culture of violence and brutality among the deputies.”
Men’s Central Jail was built in 1963.
The jail has faced scandal before.
In March 2009, Men’s Central Jail was the location of “scannergate,” when it was found deputies were not doing their usual rounds to check on inmates, reported the L.A. Times. The jail has electronic checkpoints to ensure deputies make their appointed rounds. A group of deputies had copies of the codes at their desks they would scan to avoid rounds.
The scam was uncovered after an inmate committed suicide in his cell. Although scanners showed deputies had done their rounds and should have discovered the deceased man, his body was not found until hours later.
Associate director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, Margaret Winter, said L.A. County jails are the worst of the worst for unconstitutional jail conditions.
“No jail in the nation matches the level of pervasive, savage, long-standing and notorious deputy-on-inmate violence of the kind we see in the Los Angeles County jail system,” Winter said on the ACLU’s website. “But what is most stunning of all is the stubborn refusal of Sheriff Baca, the man in charge, to acknowledge there’s even a problem.”
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