LOS ANGELES - In the wake of violence at Men's Central Jail resulting in the injuries of Sheriff's Deputies May 2, federal district court judge Dean Pregerson has scheduled a hearing at the request of the ACLU of Southern California. The renewed violence marks the first time that Sheriff's personnel have been injured.
The following can be attributed to Jody Kent, jails project coordinator for the ACLU of Southern California.
The ACLU of Southern California monitors the conditions in the seven Los Angeles County jails facilities and for years has been warning that conditions at Men's Central Jail, the largest single jail in the country, create unacceptable safety and security risks for deputies and inmates alike.
More must be done to avoid violence in the jails. Changes made after the riots and fighting that erupted throughout the county jails earlier this year are not sufficient and the proposals the Sheriff's Department has presented to the Board of Supervisors will not solve deeply-rooted, underlying problems in Men's Central Jail.
Last month the ACLU returned to court and asked the federal judge overseeing a three-decade old lawsuit on jails conditions to establish a collaborative process involving Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff's Department in order to develop and implement a strategic plan to reduce severe overcrowding and staffing shortages at Men's Central Jail. The scheduled hearing responds to this request.
Specific conditions detailed in court papers filed by the ACLU last month include:
' Unsafe staff to inmate ratios. In many cases one sheriff's deputy must monitor more than 100 inmates, which puts everyone at risk.
' Inmates are confined to spaces about a third of the size required by federal correctional standards.
' Dayrooms are being used for housing despite sheriff's deputies inability to properly monitor the scores of inmates that can be housed in the open rooms.
' Almost all inmates are locked down nearly 24 hours a day. Some 15 percent of inmates are denied three hours per week of federally mandated exercise time, which means they are locked down 24 hours a day.
The ACLU believes that the court must be involved to ensure long-term, positive changes that will improve dangerous and deadly conditions at Men's Central Jail for both deputies and inmates.