1975Rutherford v. Pitchess - The ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) sued Los Angeles County and then-Sheriff Peter Pitchess in 1975, on behalf of all detainees in the county’s jail system charging the conditions of their confinement violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and the Fourteenth Amendments’ protections for pretrial detainees.
1978Rutherford v. Pitchess - A federal court in Los Angeles enters judgment in favor of detainees in jail system, finding numerous conditions in the jail violate the constitutional rights of jail inmates.
1996 – The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announces its intentions to investigate treatment of inmates with mental illness in the Los Angeles County Jail system pursuant to the Civil Rights of the Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).
1997 – The DOJ issues its findings outlining numerous problems with the county’s treatment of inmates with mental illness, including excessive use of force by deputies and inadequate mental health care.
2002 – Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca signs a Memorandum of Agreement with the DOJ, agreeing to implement extensive reforms to the jails system.
July 2008 – ACLU SoCal and ACLU National Prison Project publish Dr. Terry Kupers “Report on Mental Health Issues at Los Angeles County Jail.” Dr. Kupers describes the Los Angeles County Jail as the largest psychiatric hospital in the country and concludes that the large portion of inmates with significant and serious mental illness are receiving minimal health treatment, that the combination of overcrowding and inadequate treatment is very harmful to inmates with mental illness, and that there is a high likelihood of an unacceptably high level of physical abuse of inmates with mental illness by deputies.
May 2010 – ACLU SoCal and ACLU National Prison Project publish “Annual Report on Conditions Inside Los Angeles County Jail” detailing troubling complaints of allegations of physical abuse by deputies on inmates resulting in broken ribs, black eyes and severe head wounds. The report also outlines the inadequate treatment of mentally ill inmates.
September 2010 – ACLU SoCal and ACLU National Prison Project publish an “Interim Report on Conditions Inside Los Angeles County” reporting continued use of excessive force, retaliation against inmates by deputies and continued inadequate care of prisoners with mental illness.
Feb. 7, 2011 – ACLU SoCal and ACLU National Prison Project file a court declaration after a civilian jail monitor from the organization witnesses the beating of an inmate by two deputies in January. The witness recounts the deputies repeatedly kicking and Tasering the inmate while saying “stop fighting” and “stop resisting” as the inmate lay motionless on the floor.
September 2011 – ACLU SoCal and ACLU National Prison release its annual Jails Report – “Cruel and Usual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails” – and calls for Sheriff Lee Baca’s resignation. The report includes more than 70 sworn statements by inmates, former inmates and civilian eyewitnesses, including two jail chaplains.
September 2011 – The Los Angeles Times confirms that federal authorities have begun a criminal investigation into allegations of inmate abuse and excessive force, marking the second federal investigation of the Sheriff’s Department in recent months – the other is into claims of deputy discrimination and excessive force in the Antelope Valley.
October 2011 – Spurred by the ACLU jail violence report and news of the federal criminal investigation of jail violence, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously moves to create a Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence with the mandate “to conduct a review of the nature, depth and cause of the problem of inappropriate deputy use of force in the jails, and to recommend corrective action as necessary.”
January 18, 2012 - ACLU SoCal and ACLU National Prison Project along with attorneys from Paul Hastings, LLP file, Rosas v. Baca, a federal class action civil rights lawsuit, charging that Sheriff Lee Baca and his top command staff have failed to put an end to the long-standing, widespread pattern of violence by deputies against inmates at the county jails. The lawsuit is filed in Los Angeles on behalf of two pretrial detainees and seeks both injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of all present and future inmates of the jails.
April 10, 2012 – A report commissioned by ACLU SoCal, ACLU National Prison Project and the LA County Sheriff’s Department is released and reveals that Men’s Central Jail, the central downtown facility in the county jail system can be shut down by the end of 2013 if alternatives to incarceration are put in place.
April 16, 2012 – Esther Lim and Mary Tiedeman, current and past coordinator for ACLU SoCal’s Jail Project, and Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project, testify at a public hearing of Citizens Commission of Jail Violence at the invitation of the Commission.
June 2012 – The federal judge in Rosas v. Baca grants Plaintiffs’ motion to allow the case to proceed as a class action on behalf of all present and future inmates in Men’s Central Jail, Twin Towers, and the Inmates Reception Area. The court also denies Sheriff Lee Baca’s motion to dismiss ACLU SoCal as counsel, making it clear that it finds no merit in the motion.
July 10, 2012 – ACLU SoCal sues the Sheriff’s Department, alleging that it “routinely fails to provide information on deputy misconduct and prior uses of force to inmates who request it. Such information can be vital to inmates challenging the credibility of a deputy.”
September 2012 – The Los Angeles County’s Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence issues a 194-page scathing report on conditions in the jail and the Sheriff’s Department’s failure to address violence and abuse in lock ups. The report repeatedly cites to the ACLU’s previous reports on conditions and abuse in the jails. The commissioners hold Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka responsible for the situation in the jails and recommend more than sixty reforms as well as the implementation of independent oversight of the sheriff’s department.
September 2012 – ACLU SoCal and ACLU National Prison Project release “Sheriff Baca’s Strike Force: Deputy Violence and Head Injuries of Inmates in L.A. County Jails,” a report that documents deputies’ inappropriate practice of striking inmates in the head in the county jails.
June/July 2013 – The DOJ concludes its investigation of the Sheriff’s Department concerning allegations of unconstitutional conduct by deputies at two stations in the Antelope Valley – Lancaster and Palmdale – finding that deputies repeatedly violated the civil rights of African Americans and Latinos.
September 2013 – The DOJ announces that it is initiating a new civil rights probe into whether the Sheriff’s Department has engaged in a pattern of excessive force against inmates in the jails, and whether inmates with mental illness have been subject to unconstitutional treatment.
October 2013 – A federal jury finds Sheriff Lee Baca personally liable in a case involving abuse of an inmate in Men’s Central Jail, Tyler Willis, who alleged that he was beaten severely by deputies in 2009; the jury awards punitive damages against Baca.
December 2013 – Federal authorities issue indictments against eighteen current and former deputies accused of “beating jail inmates and visitors, trying to intimidate an FBI agent and other crimes,” due to the “wide scope of illegal conduct” found during their investigations. The indictments allege two assaults on inmates and three on visitors to the jail as well as fabrication of accounts of these events intended to falsely justify excessive use of force. Thirteen deputies are charged in relation to misconduct in the jails.
January 2014 – Los Angeles County District Attorney charges Sheriff Deputy Jermaine Jackson with falsifying a report and assaulting three inmates, one of whom, Derek Griscavage, is an ACLU declarant.
January 2014 – After a barrage of lawsuits against the department, federal and county investigations Sheriff Lee Baca announces he will step down at the end of the month.
February 6, 2014 – Federal government unseals criminal indictment against two sheriff’s deputies for beatings in Men’s Central Jail and for attempting to obstruct justice by filing false reports about the incident. The beating is one described by a jail chaplain in a sworn statement submitted with the ACLU’s 2011 report, “Cruel and Usual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails”.
July 1, 2014 – Six deputies are convicted for their attempts to obstruct a 2011 federal civil rights inquiry into the allegations of abuse and mistreatment in the county jails. The 2011 probe involved a jail inmate working as an informant to investigate the numerous allegations of abuse, excessive force and other misconduct by jail guards. Two lieutenants, two sergeants and two deputies, convicted for attempting to hide the informant once he was discovered, now face up to fifteen years in federal prison.
October 2014 – Federal officials indict former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and Captain Tom Carey. The two are charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy for their alleged role in hiding the location of an inmate who was also an FBI informant.
December 16, 2014 – ACLU SoCal and the ACLU National Prison Project reach a landmark consent decree in Rosas v. Baca. Under the agreement, LASD must adopt a detailed plan to reform its use of force policies and practices in Men’s Central Jail, Twin Towers Correctional Facility and the Inmate Reception Center. LASD’s implementation of the plan is subject to monitoring by a panel of court appointed experts and federal court enforcement.
April 21, 2015 – A federal court grants final approval to the settlement in Rosas v. Baca.
August 2015 – United States enters into a court-enforceable settlement agreement with L.A. County over treatment of inmates with mental illness in county jails. Settlement also provides that the use of force reforms mandated by the Rosas consent decree be implemented in jail facilities run by LASD in Castaic.
November 2015 – A federal judge sentences two LASD deputies to prison for their role in the brutal beating of Gabriel Carrillo, a visitor to Men’s Central Jail. Carrillo was handcuffed and beaten by Deputies Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano. A jury convicted both deputies along with their supervisor Sgt. in June, finding the three violated Carrillo’s civil rights. Two other deputies pled guilty to their role in the incident.
February 9, 2016 – Two LASD sheriff deputies accused in the 2009 beating of an inmate strike a deal with federal prosecutors. Under the agreement, Deputies Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez will not appeal their convictions for writing false reports related to the incident. In exchange, the two men will not be retried on charges of using excessive force and violating the inmate’s civil rights. The principle witness for the case is a jail chaplain, whom the ACLU encouraged to come forward.
February 10, 2016 – Former Sheriff Baca pleads guilty to lying to federal authorities about his role in hiding a jail informant from FBI investigators who were looking into misconduct and abuse in the jail. Baca is the highest ranking sheriff’s official to be charged in the wide-ranging investigation that has led to the convictions of more than a dozen LASD officials.

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