FROM Peter Eliasberg
One Small Step toward Housing the Homeless The LA City Council today made good on an eight-week-old promise. It declared a " shelter crisis ," designed to pave the way to temporary housing for some 19,000 people who sleep on the streets of the city. We hear from a reporter covering the story, a councilman who put forth the plan, and from homeowners and advocates for the homeless.
Los Angeles County Reaches Deal with Feds on Jail Oversight Sheriff Jim McDonnell has agreed to federal court oversight of Los Angeles County jails. He’s promised sweeping reforms to reduce the use of excessive force by jailers and to protect prisoners with mental illness from being abused. The ACLU of Southern California has long been involved in efforts to reform the jails in LA County. Staff Attorney Peter Eliasberg also joins us.
State Incarceration Becomes Local Incarceration "Realignment" was enacted three years ago to reduce over-crowding in California prisons. Low-level convicts would go to the 58 counties, and they were supposed to create cheaper alternatives to incarceration. But, that's not how it's turning out. Instead of spending on treatment programs and rehabilitation, the counties are using new money to build new jails. Anat Rubin covers California for the Marshall Project , a nonprofit news organization.
Federal Judge Sentences Six in Sheriff’s Department Corruption Probe Six LA Sheriff’s officials have been sentenced to federal prison for involvement in what Judge Percy Anderson called “blind obedience to a corrupt culture.” Two lieutenants, two sergeants and two deputies were convicted of obstructing an FBI investigation by hiding a jail informant. Their sentences range from 21 months to more than three years.
The Feds Tell LA County Enough Is Enough After the so-called Rampart Scandal revealed widespread corruption in the LAPD, reforms were achieved under a federal consent decree entered into by the City of Los Angeles in the year 2000. It took 12 years before federal supervision ended. After 17 years of promises to improve, the US Justice Department says LA County jails are still denying the constitutional rights of mentally ill inmates. A scathing report says deficiencies include deplorable environmental conditions and inadequate — sometimes abusive — treatment. It contends some of 15 suicides in the past 30 months might have been prevented. Now it wants a court-enforceable "consent decree" is needed to make any progress. Last month, the Board of Supervisors voted to build a new jail for a cost of $2 billion — but that won't be completed for ten years.
FBI Arrests 17, Indicts 18 from LA County Sheriff's Department Illegal behavior has become institutionalized in the LA County Sheriff's Department, where some deputies "consider themselves to be above the law." That's according to US Attorney André Birotte, Jr. Today, he unsealed indictments alleging unjustified beatings of both jail inmates and visitors and conspiracies to cover up those actions. Eighteen deputies have been indicted and 16 are under arrest . Late this afternoon, Sheriff Lee Baca held a news conference to respond to the charges. Baca denied that abuse has become "institutionalized" but said he sadly accepted the US Attorney's investigation "whatever the findings are." (Both Sheriff Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka declined our invitation to participate in this discussion.)
Can Bob Olmsted Become a Household Word in LA County? As the incumbent Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca should be a shoo-in for re-election. In two recent cases dealing with jail violence, juries have socked Baca and other deputies with punitive damages. The recent Commission on Jail Violence said, if Baca were a corporation executive, he would have been fired. His main opponent, former Undersheriff and Mayor of Gardena, Paul Tanaka , was tarnished even worse. Their potential problems have focused attention on the man who blew the whistle on jailhouse brutality: Bob Olmsted . He's the subject of a profile by Gene Maddaus in the LA Weekly.
Governor Brown Files Yet Another Appeal It's been more than two years since the US Supreme Court gave California just that much time to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of capacity. Governor Brown says he's done all he can, and today he said he'll file a second appeal with the highest court in the land. This comes after last week's scathing opinion by a three-judge panel, which repeated its threat to hold Brown in contempt of court.
What to Do about Mentally Ill Prisoners The Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles is, by any measure, a daunting place. It's in bad physical condition and perennially overcrowded. There are gang fights, beatings and sexual assaults. Many of the inmates are either drug addicts, mentally ill, or both. So the Board of Supervisors this week unanimously passed a resolution to study tearing down part of the jail and building a new facility just for the mentally ill. The idea is that by giving those inmates special attention, they will have a better chance at rehabilitation; and the Supervisors hope that would eventually save the county money.
Sheriff Lee Baca Installs a Reformer Last fall a blue-ribbon commission blamed Sheriff Lee Baca for violence against inmates at LA County jails. The general counsel said, "If he doesn't fix the jails, [Baca] should not be re-elected." Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who ran the jails, has announced his retiremen t, and Baca has appointed an outsider to assume responsibility for nine facilities that house more than 18,000 inmates. Terri McDonald, formerly with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, is now the Assistant Sheriff overseeing the Custody Division.
A Major Shakeup in Local Law Enforcement Paul Tanaka is the top appointee of LA County Sheriff Lee Baca. Tuesday, Tanaka was elected to a third term as Mayor of Gardena. Yesterday, he resigned as Undersheriff after 33 years in the department, effective on August 1 -- when he becomes eligible for full retirement pay.
Sheriff Baca Admits Mistakes, But What’s Next? LA Sheriff Lee Baca and his top Deputy Paul Tanaka answered tough questions last week about the abuse of inmates by deputies in the county jails. They testified before a commission appointed by the Board of Supervisors after it was revealed that a federal investigation was under way. Baca said he was not told about widespread abuse, but admitted he was to blame.
Can LA Supervisors Get a Handle on LA County Jails? LA County Supervisors have stepped into the controversy over brutality by deputies against inmates in Sheriff Lee Baca's County jails. The ACLU has reported numerous incidents of violence, intimidation and excessive force, backed by civilian witnesses. The Board is asking the Sheriff to implement specific recommendations made by a Special Counsel and the Office of Independent Review . It'll appoint a seven-person commission and provide it with staff to investigate and make new recommendations.
Sheriff Lee Baca Answers Calls for His Resignation Two weeks ago, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca told Which Way, LA? he was "not in denial" about violence by deputies in LA County jails. He said he'd already looked into cases reported by the ACLU and others. Since then, he's promised to re-examine cases of alleged abuse and to improve inmate safety. One especially disturbing incident, reported by the LA Times , involved a highly-regarded rookie, who resigned after he says a supervisor forced him to beat a mentally ill inmate in Twin Towers.
Allegations of Abuse at the Men's Central Jail To reduce the overcrowding that leads to violence, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca says he’s cut the population of the Men’s Central Jail from 10,000 20 years ago to 4,175 today. But a report by the American Civil Liberties Union says it is stil “a modern-day medieval dungeon” where abuse goes unchecked and prisoners live in fear of retaliation.
The flight bumping heard around 'round the world Recent video of a passenger forcibly removed from a United Airlines plane is a worst-case example of what's happened since consolidation into just four US-based carriers. Management seems to be tone-deaf to a decline in service — and even abuse — of passengers.