ACLU Report Claims 'Excessive' Inmate Abuse
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is asking Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to resign as the organization released a report Wednesday accusing police deputies of wrongly beating L.A. County prisoners.
While it is not unusual for inmates to complain of abuse, these statements were crucial because the three volunteers came forward after they felt troubled by what they saw, the report said.
Chaplain Paulino Juarez heard thumps and gasps when he was ministering to an inmate inside Men's Central Jail on Feb. 11, 2009. He believes the inmate was handcuffed, beaten helplessly crying out "I am doing nothing wrong; please stop."
As a pool of blood formed around the inmate, Juarez said he heard the deputies order to "Check if he has HIV."
Jaurez filed a report at the time, but it was not until two years later that he was granted an interview with Baca, who said the inmate was schizophrenic and the bruises were results of being run over by a car before being incarcerated.
Another witness, movie producer Scott Budnick swore he saw deputies kicking and punching an inmate, yelling at him to "stop resisting" while tutoring writing at Men's Central Jail.
The third unidentified witness claimed he saw deputies kick an inmate's torso, hold his hands and feet together, and kick him face down.
Leaders of ACLU said violence has been going on for years under Baca, and the only solution was to force his resignation.
"Sheriff Baca bears ultimate responsibility for the horrific details we uncovered compiling this report and must step down," said Peter Eliasberg, legal director for the ACLU to the LA Times. Because hundreds of inmates are stepping forward to tell the truth, Eliasburg claim's the group's report "clearly demonstrates that there is a salient pattern of unprovoked, excessive force and abuse against inmates, many of whom are not resisiting."
A former assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office who now works with ACLU said gang-like groups of deputies have been going on for years in jails atleast since 1980's and 1970's.
"The level of deputy on inmate abuse in the LA County Jails makes the Rodney King incident look like childsplay," said Eliasberg.
At a news conference Wednesday, Baca said the ACLU did not tell the entire story and that there were violent inmates. He is open to investigation and prides himself on running a transparent jail system.
"The Sheriff has stated that you know he has an open and transparent jail system and so he's welcoming anybody to come into the jail and see for themself," said Eliasberg.
"If an investigation reveals excessive force, that employee is discharged. The LASD is never hesitant to discipline itself," said Baca in defense to the LA Times.
The FBI is currently investigating the department after it was revealed that a deputy accepted about $1,500 to sneak in a cellphone to an inmate serving as an FBI Informant.