We know that going to jail is scary. But we can assure you that your experience at the women’s facility in Lynwood, outside Los Angeles, is likely to be starkly different from the thousands of others serving time and awaiting trial in the Los Angeles jails. Based on the ACLU’s decades of experience as an official court-appointed monitor of the jails, and the stories of countless women with whom we’ve spoken, the facility where you are staying is an overcrowded detention facility where women are needlessly humiliated for so long that they come to expect sub-human treatment.
It’s a place where an eight-months-pregnant woman was forced to sleep on the floor because she could not access the top bunk to which she was assigned. A place where women have said they are made to stand naked while menstruating, as they waited for jail-issued clothes. And a place where women routinely tell us they cannot get access to the same medications they took in the community (though we doubt that you will face this same problem.)
Group punishments and degrading group strip searches are routine, as are reports of deputies calling women “bitches” and other derogatory names. And while you get private visits with your family and friends, every other woman’s visitors must wait in long lines on the weekends.
We know from the more than 4,500 complaints we receive annually that the women’s facility is a lot nicer than the Men’s Central Jail - where rats roam the tiers, and violence is as routine as sunshine in California. We’ve seen men with broken legs and black eyes. It‘s not uncommon for a prisoner to be thrown up against the wall or punched, simply for asking a deputy a question. In May of this year, the ACLU’s National Prison Project and the ACLU of Southern California – which jointly serve as official jail monitors - released a joint report that documents a prisoner’s experience in which deputies severely beat him and threatened him if he should report it. He said he was returning from meeting with his attorney, when a few deputies surrounded him and started kicking and hitting him. They bruised his nose and forehead, split his lip, and sprained his arm. And there are dozens of stories just like this one.
Lindsay, even though it’s going to be difficult for you to be incarcerated even for a few weeks, rest assured that your celebrity is something that we who frequently visit Los Angeles’s jails see as an opportunity to draw attention to conditions in the jails. You will have a window into the world of Los Angeles jails, and we hope you will use it to talk to the press about conditions here.