L.A. County Claims Success in Jail Reform

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday that jail reforms instituted to curb excessive violence against inmates are working.
     The ACLU of Southern California outlined allegations of official violence against prisoners in its 2011 report “ Cruel and Usual Punishment : How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails.” In response, a Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence was formed to investigate.
     The commission’s 194-page report in September 2012 found a pattern and practice of excessive force in the jail system and lack of oversight by then-Sheriff Leroy Baca and then-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.
     The ACLU last year settled a federal class action lawsuit, Rosas v. Baca , that was filed because of the jail violence.
     The county in August agreed to reform jails to protect mentally ill inmates from suicide and excessive force, after a 19-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
     The Sheriff’s Department’s quarterly report to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday outlined the progress made in the past three years. The Citizens’ Commission report recommended 60 reforms. The Sheriff’s Department reported on the remaining reforms that are funded or are being implemented.
     Assistant Sheriff of Custody Operations Terri McDonald told the board that the department had gone “above and beyond” targets it set to train staff on use of force. Training includes methods to identify and interact with mentally ill inmates, restraining techniques, use of force investigations and how to extract inmates from cells.
     “We’ve exceeded every goal,” McDonald said.
     Use-of-force incidents in Los Angeles County Jails have dropped “substantially” from the years before the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence reforms, McDonald said.
     “There have been no significant inmate injuries in force that have been related to anything other than dorm incidents or we’re having to deploy large scale munitions in there in order to stop rioting, or they get hit inadvertently with a projectile,” McDonald said.
     Supervisor Michael Antonovich said that 54 of the 60 recommendations had been implemented, three had been implemented in part and another three are “in progress.”
     The Republican politician said the county had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to address the jail violence, and he wanted to know where some of that money went.
     “I would like to know how much money did we pay the ACLU to observe the conditions of the jails and what did they actually do to stop some of the abuses that we’ve had people convicted for, and occurred during their watch. I think if we could have that financial information that would be very important,” Antonovich said.
     The County Office of Inspector General said in a July report that it also had “conducted unannounced inspections” in all county lock-ups and interviewed prisoners, and said the department had “made progress in several areas.”

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