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ACLU report: LA County jail deputies targeted inmates' heads when striking them

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A report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California suggests that serious inmate head injuries, some requiring surgery and causing vision problems, allegedly at the hands of Los Angeles County Sheriff's jail deputies, show an "inappropriate use of force by deputies."

The ACLU/SC released its follow-up report on inmate-deputy violence in the county jail system. Last year's jail report revealed deputy-on-inmate violence. 

“Correctional officers should strike inmates' heads only as a matter of last resort. But in the Los Angeles County Jails, that is not the reality,” states the opening line of the report. 

The report is based on 64 sworn statements taken since 2009 describing deputy attacks that targeted inmates' heads. Photos published show stitched-up inmate foreheads, bruised eyes and deep gash wounds.

For example, after being punched and kicked repeatedly by deputies in the face, one inmate suffered a fractured jaw, which was wired shut for one month to heal, according to an April 19, 2011, declaration the report cites. That inmate also underwent surgery to remove the lens from his eye.

ACLU/SC investigators say they were able to corroborate 12 allegations of head injuries with medical records, photos and civilian reports. They conclude that 11 inmates had facial bones broken by deputies, that one inmate lost vision in one eye because of deputy strikes to his face and that three inmates required surgery for their injuries.

The civil rights group's report is being released two days before the county’s Citizen Commission on Jail Violence issues its final report Friday with expected recommendations for change at the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and jails. The Commission formed by the County Board of Supervisors last year is tasked with investigating deputy-on-inmate violence in jails.

The Commission’s initial findings released this month described a department riddled with problems including an uninvolved management lacking oversight, deputies that used excessive force inappropriately and as a main tool instead of a last resort, and little discipline for deputies who violated department policies. 

Sheriff Lee Baca has publicly defended his management of the jails. He wrote in an op-ed piece this month that there have been several measures he’s initiated since the allegations of abuse surfaced last October, such as launching investigations into several declarations made by the ACLU and working with the Office of Independent Review on deputy use of force internal investigations.

The Commission’s final report and recommendations are aimed to create change in the way LASD and the jails are run if Sheriff Baca decides to accept and implement them.

Sheriff Baca’s Strike Force: Deputy Violence and Head Injuries of Inmates in LA County Jails

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