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Is the situation in Los Angeles County’s jails getting better or worse?
In its 2011 annual report, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – the court-appointed monitor of jailhouse conditions – detailed a series of abuses, including the possibility of deputy “gangs” in which new members earn the respect of veteran members by beating inmates. At the time, the ACLU called for the resignation of Sheriff Lee Baca, who claimed he had no knowledge of the abuse. Subsequently the ACLU rescinded its call for Baca’s resignation and has gone on record stating that Baca has been receptive to the idea of jail reforms. On Wednesday, however, the ACLU filed a lawsuit charging that Baca and “his top commanders condoned a long-standing, widespread pattern of violence by deputies against inmates in the county jails.” According to the ACLU, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of two former pretrial detainees, “seeks both injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of all present and future inmates of the jails.”
Have you or do you know anyone who has either been incarcerated or who works in a Los Angeles County jail? Do his or her reports match up with the ACLU’s charges? How systemic is inmate abuse, and how do we address it?
Peter Eliasberg, legal director, ACLU of Southern California
Frank Mendoza, long-time member, Just Detention International, a nonprofit organization working to prevent sexual abuse abuse in prisons and jails.
Steve Whitmore, senior media advisor, LA County Sheriff's Department