Sep 21 2011
The race is on to comply with a federal court mandate to reduce overcrowding in California state prisons. The state is supposed to have reduced the prison population to 167% of capacity by this November, and then continue in stages through 2013. The California Department of Corrections recently announced plans to release female prisoners not convicted of violent or sexual crimes under a family reunification program. CDCR reports that 45% of the total female population of 10,000 may be eligible. The CDCR is not attributing its sudden interest in the 2010 reunification program directly to the federal mandate, but it is currently the only scheme that will have an immediate impact and move the state towards compliance. In addition to early- release programs, which are unpopular among law enforcement, the State has looked at relocating its prisoners to County jails. However local governments have balked, saying they don’t have the money, or the space, to spare. In Los Angeles, the seven facility County Jail system is not an ideal solution for a third, more sinister reason. According to an investigative report by Matthew Fleischer, inmates at the LA Men’s Central Jail are subject to horrific abuses by, or under the watch of, the Sheriff’s deputies who work there. Known as the CJ, it is the largest jail in the county holding over 4300 men a day. Severe beatings and sexual humiliation are commonplace, say inmates and whistle blowers. Prisoners have been left in unsupervised situations where other inmates savagely beat and raped them. Deputies are also known to form clubs that witnesses say function more like gangs. Members intimidate their fellow officers, abuse inmates, sport matching tattoos, and adhere to a strict code of silence. Reforms, Fleischer reports, are slow in coming due to push-back within the ranks and disinterest among top administrators.
GUEST: Matthew Fleischer, an award winning LA-based journalist and editor who has been a staff writer with the LA Weekly and senior editor of the LA City Beat. He is currently a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, editor for Fishbowl LA, and he writes for several other outlets both print and online.
Part 1 of the Dangerous Jails series can be found at: http://witnessla.com