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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Hundreds Rally in Support of Sheriff Baca

Community activists, clergy, civil right leaders and ex-offenders rally in front of LA jails to support Sheriff Baca.

Sheriff Lee Baca has weathered an onslaught of serious allegations over the past few months regarding alarming reports of inmate abuse in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, but today he stands defeneded by demonstrators, who are rallying in front of the Men's Central and Twin Towers jails.

About 300 people, including community activists, civil rights leaders and ex-offenders are expected to protest outside the jail in favor of Baca, beginning at 10 a.m. PR representative Jean Dale Glass says Baca is worthy of support because of his geniune concern and commitment to the community, as evidenced by him establishing education and religious programs in the jails, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Baca commands the largest sheriff's department in the U.S., which has been under scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the FBI.

The ACLU's annual report released on Sept. 28 revealed brutal incidents of abuse of deputies-on-inmates, using eyewitness accounts for the first time from chaplains and civilians. 

The alleged violence includes deputies ganging up on peaceful inmates, deputies forcing inmates to punish other inmates, and deputies attacking inmates so fiercely that they needed medical attention from the jail clinic. The major concern is that these assaults have been occuring for years without regulation.

“No jail in the nation matches the level of pervasive, savage, long-standing and notorious deputy-on-inmate violence of the kind we see in the Los Angeles County Jail system,” said Margaret Winter,  associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project in a news release. “But what is most stunning of all is the stubborn refusal of Sheriff Baca, the man in charge, to acknowledge there’s even a problem."

ACLU demanded Baca to resign. The FBI is now involved, requiring internal department documents detailing the use of force on inmates over several years, as well as other records.

Meanwhile, Baca has acknowledged to the LA Times he was unaware of the severity of the problems in the jails and that he had failed to establish reforms.

"The truth is I should have known," Baca said. "But now I do know."

The sheriff admitted that he only recently noticed that the 69 video cameras that were bought to ensure more accountability betwen deputy and inmate interactions at Men's Central Jail, still had not been installed. The cameras were purchased more than a year ago.

Baca has promised to have the cameras installed by the end of this year, part of the many changes that will be implemented to reform the jail environment.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said she will introduce a bill on Tuesday that will require sheriff deputies to wear small cameras that will record deputy-inmate interactions, severely limit deputies' ability to strike inmates on the head, and change the manner that inmates are interviewed when reporting abuse.

Baca supports these measures and Molina's efforts to improve the jail system, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.


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