No doubt about it, Sheriff Lee Baca has a difficult job: there is nothing easy about managing Los Angeles County’s prison system, a job which will only get harder when its jails take in potentially thousands of new inmates once the State has to comply with an order to alleviate the overcrowding and improper conditions in the state prisons.
And this is precisely why he should not obstruct, but rather collaborate in, any investigation into the treatment of the inmates at the hands of his agents within these institutions.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has just released its latest report, which reports the physical mistreatment of inmates in detail and, most importantly, demands a broader criminal investigation into what it describes as “a criminal pattern of abuse on the part of agents against prisoners, fights between inmates instigated by guards, the use of excessive force ” in the prisons.
There are dozens of accounts told by not just prisoners but by civilians inside the prisons, as for instance at least one by a priest who declared that he witnessed the abuse of a prisoner who was not defending himself. This priest presented a complaint to the sheriff and later met with him personally. The response was that the prisoner refused to go into his cell and that the treatment was justified.
When confronted about the incidents, Sheriff Baca flatly denied them, saying that everything had been investigated and that the accusations were baseless. It would seem to us that, if this is so, the Sheriff should have no objection to offering his full cooperation to the FBI or any other federal agency that becomes involved in the investigations.
Let the investigation proceed. The attitude of denial resolves nothing, in view of suspicions that the problems, which are nothing new, are still with us today.