Los Angeles News

ACLU: Men's Central Jail plagued by violence

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Men's Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles is being plagued by violence according to a new report by the ACLU.

The report describes the conditions inside the jail as a "modern day medieval dungeon" where prisoners live in fear of abuse and retaliation.

The ACLU released photos taken by one of their jail monitors. The pictures show unsanitary conditions even for a jail. They say they have received a stream of complaints about violence, ranging from prisoner-on-prisoner fights to deputies using excessive force.

The Sheriff's Department, who operates the jail, wouldn't let our camera inside after the report was released, but the ACLU annual report highlights inmate abuse by some deputies.

A former inmate said he witnessed five or six incidents in three-and a-half months.

"(They were) striking an inmate with their fists, kicking them, dragging them. It's not just one deputy, its two or three deputies on one inmate," said the man who spoke on a condition of anonymity.

The ACLU says the Sheriff's Department won't tell them the disposition of any complaints regarding inmates and deputies.

"I routinely see boot marks up the backs of people, black eyes and broken ribs," said Mary Teideman, an ACLU attorney who has been visiting the central jail for four years, at least once a week.

The ACLU has been monitoring the jail since it sued the county in the 1980s over conditions at the jail. But the Sheriff's Department says conditions have been constantly improving.

"The conditions have improved dramatically," said Steve Whitemore, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Sherriff Lee Baca. "We refute what their allegations entirely."

There is an office of independent review which investigates allegations of prisoner abuse in the jail system. The Sheriff's Department also conducts its own investigations.

"If the complaint is made it is exacting, it is vetted, it is investigated. Every single one," said Whitmore.

"They do not want to report it because they're scared of what's going to happen if they do," said Teideman.

However, the Sheriff's Department does admit that conditions in the old Central Jail are a source of many of the problems reported over the years.

Eventually the old men's jail will be torn down and it's hoped the allegations of prisoner abuse will go away with it."

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