Sheriff: Jail Violence Result of Budget Cuts
CASTAIC -- Much of Los Angeles County's 21,000-inmate jail system was on lockdown Monday after race-related fighting between blacks and Hispanics at two jails over the weekend left one black inmate dead and over 100 other prisoners injured.
The lockdown at various jails was intended to keep tensions to a minimum, and it wasn't clear how long it would remain in effect, said Lt. Robert Craton, a watch commander at the North County Correctional Facility, where a major brawl between blacks and Hispanics Saturday left 45-year-old Wayne Robert Tiznor dead.
"During a lockdown, inmates are very restricted in their movements," Craton said. "We are making every attempt to get back to normal."
About 200 Hispanic and black inmates also fought at the adjacent North Facility jail late Sunday, said Deputy Alba Yates of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"Approximately 35 blacks and 170 Hispanics fought along racial lines," Yates said. About 10 people suffered minor injuries that were treated at the jail, Yates said.
Sheriff Lee Baca said the violence resulted from his decision a few years ago to close jails and concentrate inmates in the facilities that remained open. He said the move was forced by more than $150 million in budget cuts.
The cuts also led to most nonviolent criminals being released early, resulting in a more violent makeup of the prison population.
Baca is considering increasing the segregation of black and Latino inmates because of their long history of jail clashes.
The North Facility was not on lockdown when the fight broke out in four dorms, but since then has been put on it, said watch commander Lt. Bob Hudson.
Each sleeping dorm holds up to 90 inmates, said Hudson.
The North Facility and the North County Correctional Facility are on a 34-acre site about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The lockdown included the Twin Tower Correction Facility jails in downtown Los Angeles, said Deputy Bill Spear from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Spear said officials at other jails had implemented lockdowns as a precautionary measure, but couldn't immediately provide details on how many.
Authorities said they were investigating whether the two incidents were related.
Saturday's riot appeared to be fueled by a feud between black and Hispanic gangs, investigators said.
Tiznor, the dead inmate, had been jailed after being arrested Jan. 3 for failing to register as a sex offender, sheriff's officials said. It was not clear whether Tiznor was singled out, officials said.
Between 1,800 and 2,000 Hispanic and black inmates were involved in the rioting Saturday that lasted for 30 minutes to an hour, said Deputy Steve Suzuki, another sheriff's spokesman.
It appeared no weapons were used, but inmates tossed mattresses and banged heads against bunk beds, officials said.
Over 100 prisoners were treated at the facility and a local hospital, but none of the injuries was life-threatening, authorities said.
Black and Hispanic inmates at the North County Correction Facility were segregated after the fighting Saturday, and were still separated early Monday, said Craton, the watch commander.
Authorities normally can't segregate prisoners based on race or ethnicity because it is illegal, but legal advisers said it can be done in emergency situations, Sam Jones, chief custody officer of the county jail system.
The county jail system on average has a daily population of about 21,000 inmates, according to the sheriff's department.
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