Prison Hell in America

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September 30, 2011
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October 1, 2011

Prison Hell in America – by Stephen Lendman
Prison is hell everywhere. America is no different in, by far, the world’s largest gulag. Inmates are treated worse than subhumans.
Torture is commonly used. It not just at Guantanamo and similar offshore hellholes. It happens across America in federal, state and local prisons where inmates are terrorized by dogs, shocked with cattle prods, burned by toxic chemicals, harmed by stun guns, beaten, stripped naked, raped, and abused in other ways.
In July 2008, the Southern California ACLU (ACLU/SC) released a “Report on Mental Health Issues at Los Angeles County Jail.” It discussed how confinement in overcrowded conditions produces an epidemic of unaddressed mental health issues.
It also addressed excessive staff abuse, including beatings, compounded by the stress of overcrowding and deputy or inmate-on-inmate violence.
A previous article discussed it, accessed through the following link:
On September 28, New York Times writer Jennifer Medina headlined, “Report Details Wide Abuse in Los Angeles Jail System,” saying:
According to an ACLU/SC report, “(o)ne inmate said he was forced to walk down a hallway naked after sheriff’s deputies accused him of stealing a piece of mail.”
Another said “deputies….slammed his head into a wall and repeatedly punched him in the chest” for protesting guard treatment of a mentally ill prisoner.
As a result of daily abuse, the ACLU/SC will “file (suit) in Federal District Court here on Wednesday. The Los Angeles County jail system, the nation’s largest, is also (the) most troubled, according to lawyers, advocates and former law enforcement officials.”
Retired LA office FBI official Tom Parker called the “situation, the length of time it has been going on, the volume of complaints, and the egregious nature much, much worse than anything (he’s) ever seen.”
“They are abusing inmates with impunity, and the worst part is that they think they can get away with it.”
A new ACLU/SC report discussed it, headlined, “Cruel and Usual Treatment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails.”
On September 28, an accompanying press release called “for the resignation of Sheriff Lee Baca today following” the report’s release.
The ACLU/SC accused him and his criminal gang of deputies of “a pattern of severe and pervasive abuse” inflicted on inmates. In turn, Baca ignored and covered up claims of brutality.
ACLU/SC’s legal director Peter Eliasbery said he “bears ultimate responsibility for the horrific details we uncovered….and must step down. Deputy-on-inmate- abuse has reached levels we’ve never seen before.”
Chaplains, other civilian employees, and hundreds of prisoners are telling ugly truths about “unprovoked, excessive force and abuse against inmates, many of whom are not resisting.”
Describing a beating he witnessed, Chaplain Paulino Juarez said:
“To this day, recalling the beating brings tears to my eyes, and I cannot finish talking about it without taking a few moments to compose myself.”
Chaplain Doe described another one, saying:
“I was so shocked that despite the deputies seeing me watch them beat up an inmate, they continued to kick and beat him. It was like they didn’t even care that there was a witness.”
Former FBI official Thomas Parker said:
“The voluminous evidence I have reviewed cries out for an independent, far-reaching, and in-depth investigation by the Federal Government.”
The ACLU/SC said:
“To be an inmate in the Los Angeles County jails is to fear attacks.”
Esther Lim ACLU/SC Jails Project Coordinator witnessed a “savage beating” of an immobile (perhaps unconscious) inmate. She saw two deputies repeatedly punch and knee him lying face down on the floor.
He was inert like “a mannequin that was being used as a punching bag.” They persisted anyway. One of them Tasered him “again and again.” Although the inmate was lifeless, they repeatedly yelled, “stop fighting! (and) “stop resisting!”
Prison volunteer Scott Budnick saw seven deputies repeatedly Taser a motionless inmate. When he told another deputy, he responded: “Yeah, we fuck these guys up all the time.”
In the past year alone, rogue deputies assaulted hundreds of non-resisting inmates, according to chaplains, other civilians and prisoners.
In fact, anything can provoke abuse or nothing at all. Deputies attacked inmates for complaining about missing property, requesting medical treatment, or for their race or ethnicity.
Prisoners in wheelchairs were beaten. “Many attacks are unprovoked. Nearly all go unpunished.” Higher-ups cover up and deny them, refusing to acknowledge their pervasiveness.
Deputy-on-inmate and inmate-on-inmate violence and abuse are out-of-control. Nothing this extreme should be permitted, yet it continues unchallenged.
Deputies beat and kick inmates. They slam their heads into walls and windows. They Taser them unprovoked. They use other prisoners to do their dirty work. Examples are numerous.
One or more times, one inmate sexually assaulted another with a broomstick. Another was raped with his head forced down a flushing toilet. “All of this occurred with the apparent cooperation of LASD employees.”
Shocking injuries resulted, including a fractured jaw, broken collarbone, eye wounds requiring surgery, broken blood vessels, bruised ribs, a lacerated tongue, and extended dizzy spells.
Scores of sworn statements attested to these abuses and others, including seven or eight deputies severely beating a non-resisting inmate, inflicting multiple injuries.
One inmate was beaten so badly he lost consciousness and woke up in a hospital with blood over his chest. A handcuffed juvenile was pummeled in the stomach. Open wounds are inflicted requiring stitches.
The ACLU/SC said it documented deputy abuses in LA County for years. “But this year is a watershed: it marks the first time that civilian witnesses have come forward (with) reports of deputy violence against non-resisting inmates.”
They and others confirm a pervasive culture of violence. Deputies brazenly attack inmates in full view of witnesses.
An unlikely source provided more evidence. LASD deputies revealed abuses by others. “They describe colleagues who treat acts of deputy-on-inmate violence as badges of honor, and spur each other to commit violent assaults.”
It’s so unchecked that some deputies attack others. Numerous accounts attest to “deputy violence run amok.” It’s gone on for years unchecked with no remediation.
Some attacks required multiple surgeries. Others inflict long-lasting or permanent injuries. Most leave psychological scars.
Inmate Juan Pablo Reyes was repeatedly punched and kicked in the ribs, back, mouth, and eyes, breaking his eye socket, and leaving him badly bruised and injured.
When he fell, deputies kicked him with steel-toed boots, ignoring his cries. They then stripped him naked, forced him to walk up and down a hallway in full view of other prisoners, then put him in a cell to be sexually assaulted by other inmates “off and on for a day.”
“Deputies repeatedly pit inmates against other inmates, using them as pawns to carry out acts of violence.”
Besides numerous forms of abuse, deputies terrorize inmates by verbal threats. The environment is pervasive, out-of-control, and longstanding. As a result:
“Today (September 28), the ACLU/SC is filing, with the federal court in Rutherford v. Baca, seventy sworn declarations from civilian eyewitnesses, former prisoners, and current prisoners who have witnessed deputy-on-inmate assaults, and threats of violence, been assaulted by deputies or both, at the time it is publishing this report.”
A Final Comment
LA County prison hell is replicated across America. Cruel and unusual treatment persists. Cover-up is standard procedure. So is indifference. Legal restraints are ignored.
Out of sight and mind behind bars leaves nonviolent inmates scared for life. Some never recover. No one gets out unscathed.
America’s criminal justice system falls short of meeting international human rights standards. Systemic torture in LA County is one example, one of the worst.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.