The Reign of Terror Ends at LA County Jails

For many years there's been an entrenched culture of savage deputy-on-inmate violence Los Angeles County Jails – violence as extreme as anything we've seen in decades of investigating some of the most notorious jails and prisons in the nation.

Beatings that left inmates with shattered bones, eye sockets, and teeth were commonplace. There was even a gang of deputies inside the jails, dubbed "The 3000 Boys," inked up with signature tattoos, who proved their allegiance to the brotherhood by beating up inmates. Inmates with serious mental illness – deputies called them "dings" – were prime targets for violent abuse.

Now, what was almost unimaginable only a few years ago is about to become a reality: a sea-change.

Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement consenting to the entry of a federal decree in the ACLU's lawsuit Rosas v. Baca, which we filed in 2012 together with the firm of Paul Hastings LLP. The landmark decree will implement and enforce sweeping changes to the jails' policies and practices.

The roller-coaster ride that led to today's settlement began in 2008 when we published the first of a series of reports documenting widespread, organized deputy abuse against inmates. Sheriff Leroy Baca's spokesmen denied everything. On another occasion the Department's Chief of Custody Operations insisted that there was an organized conspiracy of inmates who lied about deputies to get them in trouble.

In September 2011, the ACLU issued a report that the sheriff couldn't shrug off: "Cruel and Usual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails." The report was backed up by more than 70 sworn statements by victims – and by highly credible civilian eyewitnesses, including jail chaplains, a movie producer, and the ACLU jails monitor.

The ACLU report resulted in a firestorm of media coverage and public outrage. After years of frustrated reform efforts, the genie was finally out of the bottle.

In October 2011, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors – in direct response to the ACLU's report – created the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence, a blue-ribbon panel of former federal judges and prosecutors, tasked with gathering evidence, holding public hearings, and making findings.

In January 2012, the ACLU filed its class-action suit against the sheriff. Ten months later, the Citizens' Commission issued a blistering final report, concluding that "The problem of excessive force in the county jails lies with the department's leadership."

The Citizens Commission findings galvanized public opinion. And over the next 18 months there was a series of new blows to the sheriff's department: federal civil rights probes, criminal indictments and convictions, and jury damages in the millions against sheriff's deputies in favor of their victims. A federal jury, in an unprecedented verdict, found Sheriff Baca himself personally liable for punitive damages to one of the victims. Baca announced his retirement shortly thereafter.

With today's settlement, the county has agreed to submit to a consent decree, backed by the enforcement powers of a federal court, to ensure they don't return to the bad old days.

For hundreds of thousands of current and future inmates of Los Angeles County Jails, and for their families and the greater LA community, this is a red-letter day. LA County jails have been a very dark and toxic place for a long time – and sunlight has turned out to be the best disinfectant.

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Zachary T

This is why when judges sentence a person to prison, they should say, "I sentence you to be beaten, degraded, and stripped of all your human dignity."

Elana Pritchard

I am a cartoonist who was recently incarcerated in the women's division of the LA County jail system for 2 months. While I was there I did a series of comics about some of the things I observed happening. These comics will appear in the LA Weekly January 1st and I hope they further help to improve the conditions in the jails.

Emma Rosenthal

Were there any criminal charges pressed against those in the department responsible for these abuses? Did anyone lose their jobs or pensions? Do we really believe that L.A. jails are safe and comfortable places to be detained? really? I don't.

". Inmates with serious mental illness – deputies called them "dings" – were prime targets for violent abuse."

Sounds like grounds for a hate crime enhancement.

Anonymous

Congratulations on a great job. Thanks for sticking to it and following through for all affected.

Anonymous

What about the ankle bracelet that they r releasing ppl on i need help from with in the mens central jail plz help me find out information on that

louisiana citizens

Calcasieu Sherriff Department and Sulphur city police officers too needs to be investigate also. Jailers and patrol officers. Officer Courtney Williams brought me to jail because it was her opinion i broke the law n then turned around and forced my wife to break the law by driving my truck with no driver licence. She above the law? The jailers would not give me toilet paper for days are medical treatment when i broke my hand. What happened to being innocent until proven guilty? Is that how our state treats the innocent? My wife and i where shot at and officer Fairchild of the sulphur police would not acompany to the station and refused to take my statement. Serve and Protect? What a joke!! I have so much more i couldd say about the people that we pay to protect us butt no body listens cause no one cares about us. They get the votes for their chair that sits above us and forgets about the ones that put them there. Well, you all lost my families vote so maybe you will have to let someone with the heart of God lead his people.!!

Curtis

I was recently released from L.A. County and the conditions are still Inhumane and degrading, inmates are denied medical mental health attention on average 32 days from time of sign up on medical list.Food is disgusting,no nutritional value at all, Price gouging at commissary store that is owned by former Sheriff L.Baca. The A.C.L.U. phone numbers is blocked from the Jail. I know the A.C.L.U can do a better job of exposing violations of inmate rights. I applaud your achievements but we cant forget the real job of fighting injustices wherever it happens especially the Jails.L.A.County Jail is a modern day slave ship.. massive inmates= $$$$ @ commissary=food source at 300% markup$$$

Anonymous

my son is on jail they have a accident with her girlfriend she die on the accident now they accuse hem to be the driver and i need help can anyone help me im desperate very low income and new to this case

Anonymous

Mentally ill inmates are STILL being abused and denied proper care; Deputy Ginger Matson still works in the womens jail and is beating, abusing and torturing the mentally ill and has been getting away with it since then!

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