The California Gulag Oct04

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Melissa Dewberry

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The California Gulag

Reports of widespread abuse in the Los Angeles jail system are being reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

One inmate alleged “he was forced to walk down a hallway naked after sheriff’s deputies accused him of stealing a piece of mail. They taunted him in Spanish, calling him a derogatory name for homosexuals.”

The same deputies are accused of slamming another inmate’s head into a wall and repeatedly punching him in the chest after he protested about their harassment of a mentally ill prisoner.

According to a report that the ACLU is expected to file with the Federal District Court, these two complaints represent a small fraction of abuses that are said to have taken place in Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers.

“This situation, the length of time it has been going on, the volume of complaints and the egregious nature are much, much worse than anything I’ve ever seen,” said Tom Parker, a retired FBI official who led the agency’s Los Angeles office for a number of years and oversaw investigations into the Rodney King beating.

“They are abusing inmates with impunity, and the worst part is that they think they can get away with it,” he added.

Unfortunately, the Los Angeles system has a long history that is fraught with allegations of poor conditions and abuse. Thirty-five years ago the ACLU filed a suit that resulted in an agreement that allowed them to place monitors inside the jails. Those monitors say they receive six to seven complaints a week.

While Sheriff Lee Baca has repeatedly dismissed any suggestion of a systemic problem in the jails, saying that “all allegations of abuse are investigated and that most are unfounded,” the number of civilians “who have witnessed beatings has steadily increased.”

The ACLU plans to call for Sheriff Baca to resign and for a wide-ranging federal investigation.

Read more at the New York Times.