News

Los Angeles Jail Reforms

By Mike Brodheim and Alex Friedmann

WITH SEVEN FACILITIES THAT HOUSE from 15,000 to 18,000 prisoners, Los Angeles County’s jail system is the nation’s largest – and, arguably, among the most dangerous in terms of staff-on-prisoner violence.

The jail system, operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), is facing an investigation by the FBI into allegations of corruption and abuse, as well as multiple lawsuits. Sheriff Leroy David “Lee” Baca, 70, has committed to numerous reforms following a report and recommendations by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, but people familiar with long-standing problems in the county’s jails remain skeptical.

A Continuing Culture of Violence

THE LASD JAIL SYSTEM HAS BEEN UNDER federal court oversight since the 1970s when, following a 17-day trial, an injunction was issued that ordered the county to improve jail conditions – including overcrowding, inadequate exercise, and lack of clean clothing and telephone access. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had initially sued Los Angeles County in 1975, alleging that overcrowded conditions, systematic abuse of prisoners by sheriff’s deputies and inadequate medical care violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. See: Rutherford v. Baca, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. CV 75-04111 DDP. [PLN, March 2007, p.35].

A renewed deterioration of jail conditions led to the reopening of the case in 1984. Since then, a number of court-appointed parties and experts, including the ACLU, have been monitoring conditions within the county’s jail system. Other oversight agencies include the Office of Independent Review (OIR) and Special Counsel to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

In December 2010, the ACLU asked the federal court to order a new trial in the case based on what it described as “an escalating crisis of deputy violence, abuse, and inmate suicides.” Between 2006 and 2011 there were 5,630 use of force incidents reported in county jail facilities, and according to the LASD’s own data, deputies are more likely to use force against mentally ill prisoners. Of the 582 use of force incidents reported in 2011, about one-third involved prisoners with mental health problems.

Read More »

Feinstein Wary of Proposals to Reduce Prison Sentences

By John Gramlich, CQ Roll Call

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Wednesday that she is conflicted about legislation to scale back mandatory minimum sentencing laws, signaling that lawmakers in both parties are wary of the effort ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee markup in December.

Feinstein, the second-highest-ranking Democrat on the committee, said in an interview that she is “not comfortable” with legislation that would reduce criminal penalties for some offenders, even though Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has strongly urged the panel to act on the issue.

“We’ve been wrestling with it,” Feinstein said. “For me right now, it’s not an easy question.”

The Judiciary Committee is expected to meet after the Thanksgiving recess to mark up four bills related to the federal prison system, including two that would effectively reduce criminal sentences and two that would allow some prisoners to earn earlier releases if they participate in rehabilitation programs. All four bills are aimed at curbing the rapid growth in the number of federal inmates.

Read More »

SENATORS ANNOUNCE CHANGES TO FCI DANBURY TRANSFER

Courtesy of Senator Chris Murphy

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced that in response to concerns that they raised over the last two months, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has now indicated that it has altered its plan to turn the only secure facility for women in the Northeast, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Danbury, Connecticut, into a facility for men.  BOP now intends to construct a new facility for female inmates that will be located near the FCI and maintain a satellite camp for women close by as well.   Image courtesy cbsnews.com

“This is excellent news for the children and families of inmates in the Northeast, and we applaud the Bureau of Prisons for hearing our concerns and making this decision,” the senators said. “The original plan put forward by BOP to transfer female inmates out of Connecticut would have nearly eliminated federal prison beds for women in the Northeastern United States, dramatically disrupting the lives of these female inmates and the young children they often leave behind. We are pleased that will no longer be the case.”  

Previously, BOP had announced that it would convert the FCI from a secure facility for women into a men’s facility.  This conversion would have left one of the most populated regions of the country without a secure facility for women.  While BOP still intends to turn the existing secure facility into a men’s facility, it now intends to turn the existing minimum security Satellite Camp for women located near the FCI into a low security facility for women.  It will also maintain a minimum security camp facility for women near the new FCI by constructing a new building next to the FCI. 

Read More »
Categories
Categories
Archives