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Aclu Cali La County Jail Conditions Report 2010

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2010 Interim Report on Conditions Inside
Los Angeles County Jail

ACLU National Prison Project
ACLU of Southern California
September 9, 2010

Principal Authors
Mary Tiedeman
ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Jails Project Coordinator
Daniel Ballon
Jails Project Fellow, ACLU Foundation of Southern California
Melinda Bird
Disability Rights California
Peter Eliasberg
Managing Attorney, ACLU Foundation of Southern California

The following is a summary of the ACLU’s findings concerning violence, retaliation, and
overcrowding in Men’s Central Jail (“MCJ”) during the first eight months of 2010.1 These
findings are based on hundreds of complaints received by our Jails Project intake system,
observations recorded during our monitoring visits, and prisoner declarations attached to this
report. Overall, we found that the most serious problems we reported in our “Annual Report On
Conditions Inside Los Angeles County Jail” (“2009 Annual Report”)2 continue: a pattern of
excessive force by deputies; retaliation by Sheriff’s Department (“Department”) employees
against prisoners for communicating to the ACLU and other prisoners’ advocates about the
conditions of their confinement; lack of access to adequate mental health care; and severe
overcrowding, particularly in the MCJ dorms.
This interim report also highlights findings from three investigative reports on the jail
released in June and July 2010,3 and from a state report on the jails that discusses overcrowding
in MCJ, which the ACLU obtained in 2010.4 Especially striking is the introduction to the new

The inclusion of new findings on Deputy-on-Inmate Abuse, Continued Overcrowding in the Dorms at MCJ, and
Retaliation against Inmates by LASD personnel in this report is not intended to suggest that other issues that we
addressed in our 2009 Annual Report on Conditions at MCJ have been resolved.

Filed with the Court on May 5, 2010 and available from


One report was released by Merrick Bobb, who serves as special counsel to Sheriff Baca and has issued a series of
semi-annual reviews of the Sheriff’s Department for the past decade. 29th Semi-Annual Report by Special Counsel
Merrick J. Bobb and staff of the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), July 2010, available from Another report was issued by Michael
Gennaco, Chief Attorney for the Office of Investigative Review (“OIR”), a county agency that reviews the Sheriff’s
Department’s internal review of use of force and death incidents. OIR, Eighth Annual Report, June 2010, available
from OIR also issued a follow-up report on the jail,
entitled “Deputy Vigilance in the Jails,” July 19, 2010, available from

Letter from Magi Work, Field Representative, Facilities Standards and Operations Division, California Department
of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Corrections Standards Authority (“CSA”), to Sheriff Leroy D. Baca (September
25, 2009) (“CSA Report”). This report was obtained from CSA in 2010 through a request under the California
Public Records Act.

report from Merrick Bobb, Special Counsel to Sheriff Baca and director of the Police
Assessment Resource Center, which states that “[t]he incidents we describe in this report follow
long-standing serious lapses by the Men's Central Jail staff leading to death and serious injury to
inmates. Some have concluded that the jail is beyond the possibility of redemption. We reiterate
recommendations in earlier reports that the facility should be shuttered and replaced.”(Emphasis
added).5 Like Bobb’s report, this interim report describes long-standing problems that point to
the need for comprehensive reform of the jail system and closure of Men’s Central Jail.

The ACLU’s 2009 Annual Report describes the pervasive pattern of violence that we

observed in Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) in 2009.6 During the first eight months of 2010, the
violence has continued unabated. One aspect of the violence we discussed in our 2009 report was
deputies’ use of excessive and unjustified force, which continues to date: in the five-month
period from March 10 through August 10, 2010, we received more than 70 complaints of
excessive and/or unjustified force, or retaliation by deputies against prisoners, or both. Twentyof the prisoners making these complaints have provided us sworn written statements detailing
their allegations.7
In 2010, prisoners continue to report that they are the target of unprovoked attacks by
deputies, with multiple deputies often joining in the beatings.8 The injuries sustained by


Merrick Bobb and PARC, 29th Semi-Annual Report , page 3.
2009 Annual Report, pages 9-23.


We have not yet been able to interview all the prisoners who have complained to us about deputy abuse or
retaliation. Other prisoners who complained have been unwilling to submit declarations because they fear
retaliation by the deputies.

See, e.g., declaration of Prisoner 3, dated July 14, 2010, ¶ 5-7 (beaten for no reason, suffered brain injury);
Prisoner 11, dated July 26, 2010, ¶ 4-11 (beaten for requesting a lower bunk, hospitalized for injuries to head, knee);
Prisoner 13, dated July 7, 2010, ¶ 6-8 (beaten because he overslept, suffered fractured wrist); Prisoner 1, dated June
15, 2010, ¶¶ 5-6 (beaten in head by seven deputies for asking if he could have a new pair of shoes); Prisoner 4, dated
July 10, 2010, ¶¶ 4-5 (beaten until unconscious while in handcuffs); Prisoner 2, dated July 26, 2010, ¶ 4 (beaten
until unconscious by multiple deputies for no reason, required surgery and suffered blunt head trauma); Prisoner 9,
dated June 27, 2010, ¶¶ 6-7 (numerous deputies beat prisoner after he told deputies who were taunting and threw a
sandwich at another prisoner with signs of mental illness to stop picking on that prisoner); Prisoner 15, dated June


prisoners in these incidents are often so serious and life-threatening that it is inconceivable that it
could be justified, even assuming there was some provocation or cause. Prisoners describe
beatings that occur frequently in some of the worst housing units, known as modules.9 After a
beating, deputies often claim that the prisoners were the attackers, even though many were
handcuffed and in waist chains and cowering from incoming blows.
Statements from prisoners or recently released former prisoners given in 2010 include the
Prisoner 1 asked a deputy for new jail shoes to replace his earlier pair, which was
damaged.10 In response, the deputy ordered the prisoner to strip, get down on his knees,
and cross his ankles. Before the prisoner could comply, the deputy punched him in the
right temple with a closed fist so forcefully as to draw blood. Another deputy approached
the prisoner and hit him in the head with his fist. A group of seven deputies assembled to
violently kick, knee, and step on the prisoner.11 Afterwards, Prisoner 1 was charged with
assaulting an officer and placed in solitary confinement as punishment.12 A second
prisoner came forward to offer independent corroboration of these facts.13
Prisoner 2 lined up in a row with other prisoners for pill call when a deputy approached
him, restrained him, and asked him, “What’s your fucking problem?” The prisoner did
not know why he was singled out, and he responded that there was no problem; the
deputy punched the prisoner on the right side of his face and said, “Don’t respond!”14
Another deputy approached the prisoner, stated “what’s your fucking problem,” and
30, 2010, ¶ 4-10 (beaten with flashlights while handcuffed, as often as twice per day); Prisoner 17, dated July 15,
2010, ¶ 6-12 (deputy slammed his face into metal pole for no reason); Prisoner 21, dated September 1, 2010
(multiple deputies beat prisoner and spray his face with mace after he yelled out “Hey who was that” to another
prisoner who had called out his nickname).

See. e.g., decl. of Prisoner 15, dated June 30, 2010 (beaten daily while he was housed in 3500 module; beatings
stopped when he was moved to 1750 module); Prisoner 11 ¶¶ 4, 13 (beaten in 3000 modules; did not feel safe to
talk about assaults until he returned from hospital and was sent to 7000 module).

Declaration of Prisoner 1 ¶¶ 5.


Declaration of Prisoner 1 ¶¶ 5-9, 13.


Id. ¶¶ 5-9, 13.


Decl. of Prisoner 8, ¶ 4 – 10. Deputies “seemed almost proud of what they did to Jimmie. … It was almost like a
gang beating.” Id., ¶ 11, 12.

Declaration of Prisoner 2, ¶¶ 3-4.


struck the prisoner in the head. Shortly thereafter, after pill call was over, the two
deputies beat the prisoner until he lost consciousness. When he awoke, he was on the
floor. More deputies had surrounded him, yelling “stop fighting,” striking him in the
head while one shoved his face into the concrete floor. Later, this prisoner was taken by
ambulance to county hospital, where he required surgery to his ear and was found blunt
head trauma, and a chipped tooth. When he returned to the jail, he was charged with
fighting with deputies and placed in discipline for 29 days with a loss of recreational,
phone, and visiting privileges.15
Prisoner 3 was walking in line to church when a deputy gave him an order. Although the
prisoner complied immediately, deputies threatened him and struck him in the neck. He
turned, the deputies yelled “he’s fighting,” and seven other deputies ran over and began
beating him so badly that he required hospitalization. The deputies fractured this
prisoner’s nose, caused a torn ligament in his ankle. As a result of the beating Prisoner 3
had to go to the hospital for a CAT scan and continued monitoring because an artery in
his brain swelled with blood. 16 The prisoner “is scared to go to church now for the fear
that I will see the same deputies” who attacked him.17
Prisoner 4 was beaten while handcuffed for simply calling out “Law library!”, a common
practice to remind deputies that prisoners farther down the row are waiting to access to
the law library time at the appropriate hour.18 For no apparent reason other than his
displeasure with Prisoner 4’s calling out “Law Library”, one deputy became annoyed,
dragged Prisoner 4 to the wall of the law library and slammed his face into the door
frame, causing him to black out. When the prisoner regained consciousness, he was
being kicked in the head and punched in the face by two deputies. They yelled at him to
“stop resisting” even though he was handcuffed the entire time. Afterward, one of the
deputies remarked, “I tried to kill you. You are lucky you are still breathing.”19 A second
prisoner came forward to offer independent corroboration of these facts.20
The jail also has a duty to protect prisoners from assaults by other prisoners, a duty that it
has not carried out on many occasions in the past.21 In 2010, the ACLU has continued to receive


Id., ¶¶ 4-5, 8, 14.


Declaration of Prisoner 3 ¶¶ 3.


Id. ¶¶ 4-8.


Declaration of Prisoner 4 ¶ 4.


Id. ¶¶ 4-5.


Decl. of Prisoner 14 ¶¶ 12-17.


ACLU 2009 Annual Report , pages 19-21.


reports that the Department is indifferent to this duty to protect prisoners from violence,
especially regarding housing assignments. Examples include housing prisoners with disabilities
in general population without appropriate protections, 22 as well as the following:
Prisoner 6 was housed in general population in spring 2010 when an article about his case
appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and another prisoner brought a copy of the article
into his dorm. Other prisoners beat him so severely that he was hospitalized and
diagnosed with a broken eye socket and brain damage.23 When he recovered and was
returned to the jail, he asked to be placed in protective supervision. However, jail
officials mocked Prisoner 6 and refused to move him.24 After he was placed in general
population, “[t]he other inmates in 3400, where I was moved, knew about my case and
beat me up the same day. I was knocked unconscious and woke up the next morning in a
pool of my blood.” He again required hospitalization for his injuries.25
Prisoner 18 has also requested protective custody because he is a gang drop-out and other
prisoners believe he is a “snitch.” He was instead placed in general population, where
other prisoners have attacked him, most recently using an improvised knife, or “shank” to
cut his face and cause permanent scarring.26
Even worse, the ACLU has had a growing number of reports that deputies intentionally
place prisoners in danger of violence at the hands of fellow prisoners by opening cells doors to
allow members of opposite gangs to attack one another and by encouraging prisoners to beat up
other prisoners to keep them in line.27 Examples include the following:
Prisoner 18 was locked in his cell when two prisoners from his former gang came to his
cell front. They were housed in a different module and could only have gained access to
the hall outside the cell with the knowledge and cooperation of jail deputies. The two

Declarations of Prisoner 16, ¶¶ 16-17(deputies encourage prisoners who “regulate” inmates with mental illness
housed in general population). See also Merrick Bobb, 29th Semi-Annual Report, page 139 (prisoner with disabilities
beaten and tortured when housed in general population).

Declaration of Prisoner 6 ¶¶ 3-6.


Id., ¶¶ 9.


Id. ¶¶ 10-11.


Declaration of Prisoner 18 ¶¶ 3-11.


Declaration of Prisoner 5, June 25, 2010, ¶¶ 13 (deputies open cell doors and allow inmates the opportunity to
attack others); Declaration of Prisoner 16, ¶ 17 (deputy told him to “regulate” cell mate, meaning he should beat him


prisoners yelled out to open Prisoner 18’s cell, and the cell door popped open.28 Only
deputies in the control booth have the ability to open a cell door in this way. The two
other prisoners beat Prisoner 18 severely, and then left. After they were gone, deputies
came to Prisoner 18’s cell, but refused his request to complain to a sergeant.29
Prisoner 5 observed another prisoner walking without a deputy escort in handcuffs to his
cell in an adjacent row. The door to another cell opened, the prisoner in that cell ran out,
and began striking the handcuffed prisoner with his fists on his back and head.30 The
victim almost fell to the floor, and could not defend himself because he was wearing
handcuffs. When the assailant was finished, he calmly walked back to his cell while the
victim staggered back into his own cell room. Only a deputy could have opened the
assailant’s cell door, and deputies can also see down the row from the deputy booth. 31
In the past, when prisoners and the ACLU have filed complaints with the Sheriff’s
Department regarding excessive force and violence against prisoners, and dereliction of duty by
deputies, the Department’s response has been a flat denial, an assumption that deputies are
credible and the routine skepticism about prisoners’ credibility 32
However, a new report by the Office of Independent Review (“OIR”), a county watchdog
agency, raises profound questions about deputy credibility and accountability in the jail.33 OIR
found that a score of MCJ deputies were falsifying the official logs in which safety checks are
electronically recorded. Deputies had conspired to create fraudulent safety check records in
dozens of modules over a period of months, so that they could leave their posts for extended
periods of time without being detected.34 In one instance discussed at greater length below, a

Declaration of Prisoner 18 ¶¶ 3-6.


Id ¶¶ 6-10


Declaration of Prisoner 5, ¶¶ 14-15.


Id. ¶¶ 13, 15-16.


Declaration of Mary Tiedeman, August 9, 2010, ¶ 19; Prisoner 2, ¶14 (when he complained to sergeant about
assault, response was “deputies would not beat you up for no reason.”). See also, Bobb, 13th Semi-Annual report
(2000) (“skepticism within the LASD (and in the world at large) about the truth of what inmates have to say”),
available from .

OIR, Deputy Vigilance in the Jails, pages 4-5.


Id. Only two of the ten deputies involved in scheme to falsify safety check logs were discharged from service as a
result of their actions. Id. at page 5.


very young prisoner who was housed in solitary confinement in a high security discipline cell
and had exhibited numerous signs of despondency and possibility of suicide was left unattended
for more than three hours, during which time he was able to commit suicide.
Merrick Bobb’s report contains similar criticisms regarding deputies’ failure to protect
prisoners. Bobb reviewed reports of hate crimes in the jail, in which prisoners attacked other
prisoners based on racial bias or anti-gay sentiments and found a “lack of officer response in the
incidents themselves. According to the files, it appears that several of the incidents occurred because
officers simply were not around—sometimes for hours or days. … As one sergeant told us, this is
not simply a hate crime issue, but a general issue.”35 Bobb discusses one incident in which a prisoner
with disabilities was housed in general population and subjected to beating and torture in his cell by
his cellmates for two days, and another in which a white prisoner was tied up, beaten and tortured for
more than a day by his Latino cellmates.36 With respect to the beating and torture of the inmate with
disabilities, Bobb concluded that there was “an inability of the jailers in this instance to keep inmates
safe such that brutal beatings can go on for a long while without staff even noticing.”37 Although
Bobb was reviewing incidents that occurred between 2006 and 2009, the ACLU has found that in the
first half of 2010, this pattern of dereliction of duty continues in which deputies fail to take obvious
steps to protect prisoners from harm.


In 2010, the ACLU has continued to receive a steady stream of reports from prisoners

who have experienced retaliation and intimidation for communicating problems about the
conditions of their confinement to the ACLU or other prisoner advocates. 38 Some of the

Bobb, 29th Semi-Annual Report, page 139.


Id. at pages 140-42.


Id. at page 12.


See, e.g., declarations of Prisoner 7, dated July 19, 2010, ¶ 5 (retaliation for filing internal complaint and
complaining to ACLU); Prisoner 12, dated July 20, 2010, ¶ 13 (retaliation for complaints re denial of showers);
Prisoner 1, dated June 25, 2010, ¶ 11 (deputies who beat him threatened him with further violence if he
complained); Prisoner 8, dated June 29, 2010, ¶ 13 (fearful that the deputies will beat him if they find out he is


retaliation involves the denial of showers or television by deputies who openly state that this is
“because you were talking to the ACLU” or otherwise complained about jail conditions. 39
Deputies subjected some prisoners to repeated searches (which involve the destruction of their
personal property and family photographs), following every encounter with the ACLU.40
Deputies retaliate against other by beating them; in some of these cases deputies plant drugs or
contraband on the prisoner as a pretext for the excessive force.41 The deputies openly disparage
the ACLU and warn prisoners of the consequences if they complain; other prisoners observe
these interactions, which make them even more fearful of speaking up.
One prisoner’s account of the animosity some deputies display toward the ACLU reflects
the wide range of the Sheriff’s Department’s retaliatory behavior.
Prisoner 542 spoke to the ACLU about multiple incidents of deputy beatings and
excessive force in late June 2010. Soon afterwards, he was intimidated and questioned
by deputies, who specifically mentioned the ACLU. Twice when ACLU monitors
attempted to conduct follow-up interviews, so many deputies approached him to escort
him to the meetings that he was afraid to leave his cell and refused the interview. On
subsequent days, deputies began walking past his cell, asking aloud “Who’s talking to
ACLU?”43 When the prisoner was finally able to meet with the ACLU again, he signed a
declaration describing instances of beatings and excessive force, the denial of showers or
television, deputies allowing prisoners to attack others and setting up fights between
speaking to ACLU); Prisoner 15, dated June 30, 2010, ¶¶ 11, 12 (afraid to complain or speak to ACLU re beatings
by deputies because “deputies would take it out on me even more,” but sister complained on his behalf); . See also,
declaration of Mary Tiedeman, ¶ 21.

Regarding the retaliatory denial of showers and television, see, declarations of Prisoner 5a, dated July 16, 2010, ¶¶
10-11; Prisoner 12, dated July 20, 2010, ¶ 13; Mary Tiedeman, ¶ 22.

Regarding retaliatory searches, see declarations of Prisoner 7, dated July 19, 2010, ¶ 5 (retaliatory searches for
filing internal complaint and complaining to ACLU); Prisoner 5a, ¶ 15 (“could hear the deputies ripping up our stuff
during a search); Mary Tiedeman, ¶ 23.

Regarding beatings and planted contraband and weapons, see declarations of Prisoner 7, ¶¶ 4-9; Prisoner 11, ¶¶ 811; Prisoner 5a, dated July 18, 2010, ¶ 22-23; Prisoner 7, dated July 19, 2010, ¶ 5 (retaliation for filing internal
complaint and complaining to ACLU)..

This prisoner submitted two declarations, one (Prisoner 5) discusses the deputy on inmate abuse he has witnessed.
The other (Prisoner 5a) discusses the retaliation he endured for repeatedly speaking with the ACLU.

Declaration of Prisoner 5a, dated July 16, 2010, ¶¶ 5-7.


prisoners, and deputies planting contraband and weapons on prisoners. 44 He told the
monitor that he was afraid that deputies would also plant a weapon in his cell.45 The
following week, deputies searched this prisoner’s cell and reported that they had found
contraband in the cell and sentenced him to a month in discipline, which is solitary
confinement in a small, dark cell. The circumstances surrounding discovery of the
contraband makes it obvious that the contraband was planted in retaliation for his
repeatedly talking with the ACLU. 46 The prisoner was not allowed to appeal the
decision.47 Deputies continue to warn him not to talk to the ACLU.48
The efforts by deputies to discourage prisoners from speaking to the ACLU, as well as
pervasive climate of uncurbed violence, significantly hinder the ACLU’s ability to monitor
conditions in the jail. On virtually every monitoring visit to the jail, we encounter several
prisoners who refuse to talk to us, explaining that they fear retaliation if deputies see or suspect
them of speaking with the ACLU.49 Three years ago, ACLU staff members frequently spoke to
prisoners about their complaints at cell front. As incidents of retaliation increased in the last two
years, the ACLU monitors reduced cell-front interviews and instead began arranging to speak to
prisoners individually in the attorney interview rooms at the jail.50 In 2010, retaliation has
continued to increase, so that even speaking to an ACLU staff person in the attorney room now
carries the risk of retaliation. 51
In the ACLU’s 2009 Annual Report, we explained that the Department had implemented
a policy against retaliation in MCJ, expressly forbidding deputies from retaliating in any way

Declaration of Prisoner 5, dated June 25, 2010, ¶¶ 5-19.


Declaration of Prisoner 5a, dated July 16, 2010, ¶ 9.


Id., ¶¶ 17-22 (deputies were heard discussing change in accusation from possession of a stick to possession of a
razor; charges were later changed to possession of a shaver and creating a disturbance).

Id., ¶ 20.


Id., ¶ 24.


Tiedeman Declaration, ¶ 18.


Id., ¶ 21.


Id. See also declarations of Prisoner 8, ¶ 12 (deputies interrogate him for ten minutes about his criminal case
when he has an interview with the ACLU in the attorney room); Prisoner 5a ¶ 24 (deputies make disparaging
comments about the ACLU and tell prisoner not to talk with ACLU representatives).


against prisoners for communicating with the ACLU or any other advocacy group. However,
our observations during the last eight months suggest that this policy has been largely
ineffective, both at reducing the number of retaliation complaints we receive, and at alleviating
the fear of retaliation we observe.
There are two reasons for the policy’s ineffectiveness. First, the Department has failed to
demonstrate an assertive, no-tolerance stance against retaliation within its own ranks. The ACLU
monitors regularly bring reports of fear of retaliation to the attention of the Department.
Typically, the Department will request disclosure of the prisoner’s name without taking
measures to protect him from further retaliation, assume that the deputies are being truthful when
they deny any allegations of retaliation or abuse, and assert that supervisors regularly brief the
deputies on the anti-retaliation policy.
Second, prisoners are unlikely to assert their rights under the no-retaliation policy
because they are entirely unaware of its existence. Since the policy was adopted over one year
ago, we have asked the Department to post the policy throughout MCJ as a prophylactic
measure. The Department has refused to post the policy or notify prisoners of the policy upon
their arrival into the jail, so prisoners are unaware of the no-retaliation policy.52 As a result, they
often do not file formal grievances when retaliatory action is taken. Meanwhile, prisoners are
chilled from bringing complaints to advocates and jail officials out of fear of retaliation, unaware
that a policy has been set in place to address the cause of that fear.

The many problems with the treatment of prisoners with mental illness in Men’s Central

Jail were described in a comprehensive report by Dr. Terry Kupers, a nationally renowned
psychiatrist with national expertise in correctional settings,53 and in the ACLU’s 2009 Annual


Tiedeman Decl, ¶ 24.


Dr. Terry Kupers, Report on Mental Health Issues at the Los Angeles County Jail, June 27, 2008, available from


Report.54 Both reports contained recommendations for improving this treatment so that it meets
minimal constitutional standards. However, the ACLU has observed no improvement in
treatment of prisoners with mentally illness in the first part of 2010.
Specifically, a core problem is that the number of prisoners with mental illness is far
greater than the resources and housing available in Tower One of the Twin Tower Correction
Facility. In the mental health modules in Tower One, prisoners have direct access to the central
day rooms where they participate in therapy groups, interact with other staff and prisoners and
meet individually with county mental health staff. Deputies receive special training in dealing
with prisoners with mental illness and, in our experience, are far less likely to impose discipline
or punish prisoners for disability-related behavior.55 However, there are not enough beds in
Tower One to accommodate all those who need mental health treatment, so the prisoners in
mental health housing go through a weekly process of “declassification,” in which they are
moved out of mental health housing and into general population at Men’s Central Jail as soon as
they stabilize. In MCJ, they have no access to mental health treatment; at best they are provided
with medication and can request brief, cell-front interviews with the Jail Mental Evaluation
Many prisoners with mental illness cannot function without the treatment provided in
Tower One, so they rapidly deteriorate in Men’s Central Jail and become suicidal and/or violent.
Moreover the overcrowding, lack of access to recreation, and other conditions in Men’s Central
Jail also contribute to their destabilization. 57 Some cycle back and forth between MCJ and the
high observation suicide watch module in Tower One, while others less fortunate end up in
general population or in discipline, in small solitary confinement cells. There, they are

2009 Annual Report at pages 27-25.


Tiedeman Decl., ¶ 4; Kupers Report, 2008, page 18.


Tiedeman Decl, ¶ 5; Kupers Report, 2008, page 19, 21-22.


Kupers Report, 2008, at pages 7, 33-40.


vulnerable to abuse from other prisoners and deputies alike. Recent examples of prisoners with
mental illness who were not given proper treatment include the following:
Prisoner “A” was booked into the jail in early 2010 and placed in mental health housing.
He has a long history of mental illness, qualified for social security disability based on
mental illness when in the community, was housed in mental health housing in Tower
One during a previous jail stay, and had been found incompetent to stand trial and
committed to Patton State Hospital, which held him over for additional treatment.58 He
was soon declassified and sent to general population in MCJ. ACLU monitors requested
a reevaluation with no success, but he soon attempted suicide and was sent to high
observation suicide watch on the 7th floor of Tower One. When he stabilized, he was sent
back to general population in MCJ despite objections from the ACLU, where he cycled
back and forth to the seventh floor until he was finally sent back to Patton State Mental
Hospital based on a finding of incompetency.59
Prisoner B had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in the community
and was seeing a psychiatrist for treatment.60 During a previous jail stay, staff had
recognized that he had a mental illness and he was placed in mental health housing in
Tower One; he had also contacted the ACLU at this time regarding his need for mental
health treatment.61 However, when he was booked into the jail in early 2010, he was
placed in a high security two-man cell in Tower Two, with a cellmate who previously
been convicted of murder. Prisoner B was found dead in his cell on March 4, 2010,
apparently murdered by this cell mate.62
An inevitable consequence of the inadequate mental health treatment is suicides and
suicide attempts.63 The new annual report from OIR includes an analysis of the dramatic
increase in suicides in the jail in 2009.64 Among other findings, OIR noted “weaknesses in the
processing and follow-up mental health care of inmates” after they are transferred out of Tower
One. In one case, the prisoner had attempted suicide and was then “declassified [out of mental

Tiedeman Decl, ¶ 6.


Id. ¶¶ 7-9.


Id., ¶ 11.


Id., ¶ 10.


Id., ¶ 10-11.


Kupers Report, page 34.


OIR, 8th Annual Report, page 6.


health housing] after his attempted suicide … [with] no evidence of any ongoing evaluation
conducted by mental health staff members.”65 He then committed suicide while housed in
general population.
[This] is not unusual, or, as far as we know, contrary to DMH policy. We
understand that the sheer number of inmates moving in and out of mental health
housing at the jail makes meaningful follow-up difficult, if not impossible, for the
finite staff working at the jails. That being said, we have in the past
recommended that the Department work with DMH to find some way to address
the treatment and care of inmates declassified from mental health housing and
will continue to press this issue. 66
Despite OIR’s work and recommendations, the ACLU has seen no improvement in this
area. For example, the ACLU’s review of jail suicide reports for the first half of 2010 indicate
that jail staff are not sufficiently alert to circumstances that pose a high risk of suicide. One
suicide victim had just been sentenced to state prison, while another had just been booked and
was in the Inmate Reception Center and in the process of being transferred to regular housing.67
Both of these are high risk periods when prisoners should be carefully monitored, but apparently
were not. In the past six months, when ACLU staff has alerted jail staff when they identify
prisoners in general population who appear to be at risk of suicide attempts, the custody staff has
been cooperative. However, as OIR has reported, the jail does not have a routine system of
mental health follow-up for prisoners who pose a suicide risk, such as those who have been
declassified, or are returning from sentencing.68
The failure of deputies to make regular safety checks is also part and parcel of the
increase in suicides at the jail. OIR also issued a second report with additional follow-up
regarding the suicide death of a young man in discipline in MCJ in April 2009. When ACLU


Id. page 5.


Id., page 6.


Tiedeman Decl., ¶¶ 14-15.




monitors walked this discipline row shortly after the suicide, another prisoner passed them a note
describing the circumstances of this young man’s death, including the fact that his body was
rigid when he was found, and that he had been showing clear signs of mental illness for many
days before his death.69 The OIR report found that the deputy on duty, who was required to
conduct safety checks every 30 minutes on a discipline row, had left his post for more than 3
hours and falsified the electronic logs to cover his absence.70 OIR also found that a request had
been made for a mental health evaluation for this prisoner the day before his death, but JMET
staff had not received or acted on the request.71
OIR’s investigation and its identification of the deputy’s failure to conduct safety checks
and the absence of a timely JMET team evaluation was thorough and commendable. However,
this young man’s death raises additional issues. The letter from the prisoner in the cell next to
the suicide victim stated that he showed symptoms of mental illness and obvious suicidality that
had continued for many days and that deputies came to his cell door and teased him and made
jokes about him, calling him “crazy.”72 Similarly, a recent statement from a prisoner in MCJ and
describes how deputies denied requests from a prisoner to see a psychiatrist, mocked prisoners
who stated that they were suicidal, and encouraged other prisoners to beat them.73 Moreover,
OIR reported that there were bruises on this young man’s body, suggesting that he might have
been beaten by deputies and then placed in discipline, as have so many of the other prisoners
whose accounts are included in this report. Prisoners with mental illness are especially

Statement of detainee witness re the death of Robert Horton, available from: The ACLU provided this letter to the jail and called for a full investigation.

OIR, Deputy Vigilance in the Jails, page 4.


Id., page 3, footnote 1.


Statement of prisoner witness re the death of Robert Horton, available from:

Declaration of Prisoner 16, dated June 20, 2010, ¶¶12-18; see also Declaration of Prisoner 9 ¶¶ 6-7 (describing
how he observed numerous deputies taunting an prisoner with obvious signs of mental illness and one deputy threw
a sandwich at the prisoner’s head)..


vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse from deputies and other prisoners. Horton’s
death may be another example of the jail’s failure to protect prisoners from harm, including the
risk of suicide.

In every single visit to Men’s Central Jail in the first half of 2010, the ACLU noted and

reported the same problems with physical conditions and overcrowding that have plagued the
facility for many years, including plumbing problems (e.g. leaky pipes, broken toilets that had
not been repaired); temperature problems (either too hot or too cold); denial of access to showers
(e.g. not being offered showers, not being given a reasonable amount of time to shower);74 denial
of access to outdoor recreation (i.e. roof) time; and denial of access to fresh clothing and linens.
One particular problem area continues to be the dormitories in MCJ. In our 2009 Annual
Report, we noted that all of the dormitories in MCJ housed more than 100 men each, with one
housing more than 160 men.75 The ACLU recently obtained a 2009 report from the State of
California’s Correctional Standard’s Authority that confirms that the dormitories in MCJ are
consistently near twice their rated capacity;76 those capacities range from 64 for the dorm with
the lowest rated capacity, to 87 for the dorm with the highest rated capacity.77 In April 2010, the

The ACLU has always monitored the denial of showers, outdoor recreation and linen changes using daily logs
which were manually filled in by deputies. The Department has now instituted new electronic logs which have
proven to be vulnerable to falsified entries. OIR, Deputy Vigilance in the Jails, pages 4-5. In addition, deputies
have begun refusing to allow the ACLU to review the electronic logs to monitor compliance with state regulations
regarding prisoners’ rights. The deputies have stated that they don’t how to access the electronic logs from their
stations within each module, or that the computer systems were down. They subsequently denied the ACLU’s
request to see more than a few days worth of log entries

2009 Annual Report at page 42.


One of the trustees’ dormitories, 9500, was housing 225 prisoners in June 2009. That dormitory was originally a
dayroom. The CSA report states that the conversion of 9500 from a dayroom to a dormitory was “part of a
crowding problem.” Letter from Magi Work, Field Representative, Facilities Standards and Operations Division,
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Corrections Standards Authority, to Sheriff Leroy D. Baca
(September 25, 2009) (“CSA Report”) at Attachment B. The Board of Corrections did not provide a rated housing
capacity for 9500, concluding that 9500 “should have remained [a] dayroom.” Id.

CSA Report at Attachment B.


Department made a commitment to the federal court to address the issue of crowding in the MCJ
dorms. Beginning in late June 2010, the Department reduced the number of prisoners in four of
the 15 dorms – 5100, 5200, 5300 and 5400 -- by approximately 20 people each.78
While we applaud this effort, it is grossly insufficient for three reasons. First, the CSA
report documented that in mid-2009 these dorms were housing from 34 to 44 more men than
they were designed to hold according to their rated capacity. Thus, even with the reduction of 20
beds, these four dorms remained overcrowded, housing from 132% to 140% of their rated
capacity. Second, the reductions occurred in only 4 of the 15 dorms, many of which were and
remain at almost twice their rated capacity. Third, we continue to have serious concerns about
the lack of a lasting solution to overcrowding in the dorms. The Department achieved the
reduction noted above by simply shifting prisoners to other housing locations throughout the jail
system, with no systemic plan to address the chronic overcrowding in the MCJ dorms and
maintain the recent reduction. Indeed, the Department has confirmed to us that the only reason
the recent changes have been possible is because the overall population counts in the jail are
down. As soon as there is an influx of individuals coming into the jail, the dorm populations will
balloon once again.
An equally serious cause for concern is the Department’s refusal to provide the ACLU
direct access to the census in the dorms. Since May 2010, Department officials have either
denied our requests for jail housing counts, including the number of prisoners in each dorm, or
have altogether failed to respond to our requests. Thus, to determine the degree of overcrowding,
ACLU monitors have had to inspect the dorms and seek verbal confirmation of the census, or
conduct their own hand count. However, this information is readily available to jail staff (each
facility prepares count sheets summarizing census information on a daily basis and e-mails it to
command staff) and could easily be provided electronically to the ACLU with little effort from


The Department also removed the empty bunks from the dorms, freeing up some space for the prisoners to walk


the Department. As a result, it has become difficult for the ACLU to monitor what progress, if
any, is being made in the dorms. The Department’s refusal to cooperate by providing counts of
the census in each dorm reflects a deeper resistance to meaningful change in the facility.
Mary Tiedeman
Daniel Ballon
Melinda Bird
Peter Eliasberg




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