FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2017
ACLU SoCal Statement on Jury Verdict in Trial of Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca
The jury’s decision to convict Lee Baca for obstructing an FBI investigation into widespread abuse of jail inmates was yet another acknowledgment that for many years our county jail system has been broken and must be held up to greater public scrutiny.
The ACLU of Southern California applauds the positive steps the county has taken toward reforming its policies and practices to curb physical abuse in the wake of the report by the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence and the entry of the consent decree in the Rosas v. Baca lawsuit brought by the ACLU and its co-counsel, Paul Hastings. This also includes the creation of the Civilian Oversight Commission. But those steps, along with the convictions of Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, do not mitigate the continued need for reform.
In addition, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions continue to plague the jails. Inmates with mental illnesses, many of whom belong not in jail but in community treatment, frequently do not receive proper care for their conditions. People are not kept in jail pretrial simply because they are too poor to make bail. We urge Sheriff Jim McDonnell and county officials to institute new policies that will ensure proper treatment for inmates with mental illness and reform of the pretrial system. These changes will help lower the jail population, allow for the closure of Men’s Central Jail County, which is little more than a modern-day medieval dungeon, and allow the county to reconsider its misguided plans to build a massive new jail.
Moving forward on these reforms will make the Los Angeles County jail system a model for the nation.
Peter Eliasberg is chief counsel and Manheim Family attorney for First Amendment Rights at the ACLU of Southern California