- Prison is hell everywhere. America is no different in,
by far, the world's largest gulag. Inmates are treated worse than subhumans.
- Torture is commonly used. It not just at Guantanamo and
similar offshore hellholes. It happens across America in federal, state
and local prisons where inmates are terrorized by dogs, shocked with cattle
prods, burned by toxic chemicals, harmed by stun guns, beaten, stripped
naked, raped, and abused in other ways.
- In July 2008, the Southern California ACLU (ACLU/SC)
released a "Report on Mental Health Issues at Los Angeles County Jail."
It discussed how confinement in overcrowded conditions produces an epidemic
of unaddressed mental health issues.
- It also addressed excessive staff abuse, including beatings,
compounded by the stress of overcrowding and deputy or inmate-on-inmate
- A previous article discussed it, accessed through the
- On September 28, New York Times writer Jennifer Medina
headlined, "Report Details Wide Abuse in Los Angeles Jail System,"
- According to an ACLU/SC report, "(o)ne inmate said
he was forced to walk down a hallway naked after sheriff's deputies accused
him of stealing a piece of mail."
- Another said "deputies....slammed his head into
a wall and repeatedly punched him in the chest" for protesting guard
treatment of a mentally ill prisoner.
- As a result of daily abuse, the ACLU/SC will "file
(suit) in Federal District Court here on Wednesday. The Los Angeles County
jail system, the nation's largest, is also (the) most troubled, according
to lawyers, advocates and former law enforcement officials."
- Retired LA office FBI official Tom Parker called the
"situation, the length of time it has been going on, the volume of
complaints, and the egregious nature much, much worse than anything (he's)
- "They are abusing inmates with impunity, and the
worst part is that they think they can get away with it."
- A new ACLU/SC report discussed it, headlined, "Cruel
and Usual Treatment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails."
- On September 28, an accompanying press release called
"for the resignation of Sheriff Lee Baca today following" the
- The ACLU/SC accused him and his criminal gang of deputies
of "a pattern of severe and pervasive abuse" inflicted on inmates.
In turn, Baca ignored and covered up claims of brutality.
- ACLU/SC's legal director Peter Eliasbery said he "bears
ultimate responsibility for the horrific details we uncovered....and must
step down. Deputy-on-inmate- abuse has reached levels we've never seen
- Chaplains, other civilian employees, and hundreds of
prisoners are telling ugly truths about "unprovoked, excessive force
and abuse against inmates, many of whom are not resisting."
- Describing a beating he witnessed, Chaplain Paulino Juarez
- "To this day, recalling the beating brings tears
to my eyes, and I cannot finish talking about it without taking a few moments
to compose myself."
- Chaplain Doe described another one, saying:
- "I was so shocked that despite the deputies seeing
me watch them beat up an inmate, they continued to kick and beat him. It
was like they didn't even care that there was a witness."
- Former FBI official Thomas Parker said:
- "The voluminous evidence I have reviewed cries out
for an independent, far-reaching, and in-depth investigation by the Federal
- The ACLU/SC said:
- "To be an inmate in the Los Angeles County jails
is to fear attacks."
- Esther Lim ACLU/SC Jails Project Coordinator witnessed
a "savage beating" of an immobile (perhaps unconscious) inmate.
She saw two deputies repeatedly punch and knee him lying face down on the
- He was inert like "a mannequin that was being used
as a punching bag." They persisted anyway. One of them Tasered him
"again and again." Although the inmate was lifeless, they repeatedly
yelled, "stop fighting! (and) "stop resisting!"
- Prison volunteer Scott Budnick saw seven deputies repeatedly
Taser a motionless inmate. When he told another deputy, he responded: "Yeah,
we fuck these guys up all the time."
- In the past year alone, rogue deputies assaulted hundreds
of non-resisting inmates, according to chaplains, other civilians and prisoners.
- In fact, anything can provoke abuse or nothing at all.
Deputies attacked inmates for complaining about missing property, requesting
medical treatment, or for their race or ethnicity.
- Prisoners in wheelchairs were beaten. "Many attacks
are unprovoked. Nearly all go unpunished." Higher-ups cover up and
deny them, refusing to acknowledge their pervasiveness.
- Deputy-on-inmate and inmate-on-inmate violence and abuse
are out-of-control. Nothing this extreme should be permitted, yet it continues
- Deputies beat and kick inmates. They slam their heads
into walls and windows. They Taser them unprovoked. They use other prisoners
to do their dirty work. Examples are numerous.
- One or more times, one inmate sexually assaulted another
with a broomstick. Another was raped with his head forced down a flushing
toilet. "All of this occurred with the apparent cooperation of LASD
- Shocking injuries resulted, including a fractured jaw,
broken collarbone, eye wounds requiring surgery, broken blood vessels,
bruised ribs, a lacerated tongue, and extended dizzy spells.
- Scores of sworn statements attested to these abuses and
others, including seven or eight deputies severely beating a non-resisting
inmate, inflicting multiple injuries.
- One inmate was beaten so badly he lost consciousness
and woke up in a hospital with blood over his chest. A handcuffed juvenile
was pummeled in the stomach. Open wounds are inflicted requiring stitches.
- The ACLU/SC said it documented deputy abuses in LA County
for years. "But this year is a watershed: it marks the first time
that civilian witnesses have come forward (with) reports of deputy violence
against non-resisting inmates."
- They and others confirm a pervasive culture of violence.
Deputies brazenly attack inmates in full view of witnesses.
- An unlikely source provided more evidence. LASD deputies
revealed abuses by others. "They describe colleagues who treat acts
of deputy-on-inmate violence as badges of honor, and spur each other to
commit violent assaults."
- It's so unchecked that some deputies attack others. Numerous
accounts attest to "deputy violence run amok." It's gone on for
years unchecked with no remediation.
- Some attacks required multiple surgeries. Others inflict
long-lasting or permanent injuries. Most leave psychological scars.
- Inmate Juan Pablo Reyes was repeatedly punched and kicked
in the ribs, back, mouth, and eyes, breaking his eye socket, and leaving
him badly bruised and injured.
- When he fell, deputies kicked him with steel-toed boots,
ignoring his cries. They then stripped him naked, forced him to walk up
and down a hallway in full view of other prisoners, then put him in a cell
to be sexually assaulted by other inmates "off and on for a day."
- "Deputies repeatedly pit inmates against other inmates,
using them as pawns to carry out acts of violence."
- Besides numerous forms of abuse, deputies terrorize inmates
by verbal threats. The environment is pervasive, out-of-control, and longstanding.
As a result:
- "Today (September 28), the ACLU/SC is filing, with
the federal court in Rutherford v. Baca, seventy sworn declarations from
civilian eyewitnesses, former prisoners, and current prisoners who have
witnessed deputy-on-inmate assaults, and threats of violence, been assaulted
by deputies or both, at the time it is publishing this report."
- A Final Comment
- LA County prison hell is replicated across America. Cruel
and unusual treatment persists. Cover-up is standard procedure. So is indifference.
Legal restraints are ignored.
- Out of sight and mind behind bars leaves nonviolent inmates
scared for life. Some never recover. No one gets out unscathed.
- America's criminal justice system falls short of meeting
international human rights standards. Systemic torture in LA County is
one example, one of the worst.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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