Dangerous Jails

LA County’s Dangerous Jails: the Death List

Men's Central Jail, via WitnessLA
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

WitnessLA gets regular calls from sources inside Los Angeles County’s jail system. Mostly the callers just want to talk to someone. But they also call when there’s been another death in Men’s Central Jail, or Twin Towers.

Eleven people have died in the county’s jails this year. At least that’s the official count as of today.**

The last fifteen months have been deadly in the nation’s largest jail system.  There were 45 deaths in 2023. When you include this year’s seven deaths, it brings the death total to 56** since Jan. 1, 2023.

Late last month we got multiple calls about death number seven, which occurred on Tuesday, March 28, 2024.

Our sources in MCJ, as the dungeon-like Men’s Central Jail is known for short, told us that on March 27, the day before the man died, he reportedly complained to people in the dayroom of his unit, telling those around him that he was having trouble breathing and that he was scared.  

Around 7:00 p.m. that same day, or thereabouts, sources in his unit reportedly heard the man call out to a deputy with a request to see a doctor due to his worsening breathing problem. 

According to our MCJ sources, the deputy said he was busy, but that he’d be back.

It’s not clear if anyone ever came back to check on the man with the breathing issue in the following few hours. According to sources in his unit, around 3:00 a.m. or so, there was finally a wellness check, but it was reportedly too late. 

His date of death is listed as having taken place on March 26, the day following the afternoon he complained in the dayroom.

“I’m afraid I’m not going to make it out of here alive,” said one of WLA’s jail sources after death number seven. 

When we talked further, the source made clear he isn’t fearful of being harmed by another inmate, or a sheriff’s deputy.  He has some health problems, and is fearful that in a health emergency,  he would not get timely and appropriate medical treatment.

The safety check issue

The California Code of Regulations, Title 15, section 1027.5, requires hourly safety checks of people in custody. “All inmates in our custody shall be visually checked at least once each hour to ensure their safety and welfare,” is the way the statute reads.

The Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) lists these safety checks as one of the 15 “minimum standards” for local detention facilities.

Yet, in mid-February of this year, when the BSCC’s monitors did their cyclical assessment of Men’s Central Jail, the monitors found the dungeon-like facility “had numerous gaps in the documentation of safety checks,” meaning even in terms of the most minimum basic standards, the facility was of compliance. 

Both our jail resident sources who call us from inside the facility, and sources who work for the LA County Sheriff’s Department, tell us that, based on their personal experience, MCJ is frequently alarmingly out of compliance with the state statute when it comes to hourly safety checks.

Men’s Central Jail, via WitnessLA

Deadly trend

The Vera Institute of Justice describes the growing list of deaths in the custody division of the LA County Sheriff’s Department as a “deadly trend” that even far exceeds that of New York City Department of Correction (NYC DOC) facilities, where the rising number of deaths at the Rikers Island jail complex is a “mounting crisis that has received nationwide attention.”

But in LA County, things are worse.  This is particularly true in MCJ.

“Men’s Central Jail claimed three times as many lives as any other jail in the Los Angeles County system last year,” said Claire Simonich, associate director of policy for Vera California, in an email to WLA. “The Board of Supervisors voted to close it, without a replacement, nearly three years ago. And since that vote, data from the Office of the Inspector General shows at least 131 more people have lost their lives in Men’s Central.”

 For those who make it through alive, Simonich wrote, “the jail is still an inhumane nightmare.”

Unhealthy medical system

In the November 16, 2023, report on the LA County’s Sheriff’s Department, by the Office of Inspector General, the OIG described that — out of the 190 new complaints by people in custody and/or their family members and friends — the largest pile of complaints pertained to the jails’ medical system.

A lot of those who work in the world of correctional health seem to have the same view.

On May 24, 2023, nurses, and other correctional health care workers, demonstrated in front of MCJ protesting the “deplorable conditions in Men’s Central Jail, both for those incarcerated and those who work inside the place.

WLA’s sources inside MCJ largely focus their complaints on the jail’s medical system. They describe having health symptoms and/or existing conditions that aren’t treated appropriately, or in a timely fashion, or at all.

For example, this month, in addition to the man with the breathing problem, sources described a jail resident who suffered from epilepsy and was prone to seizures.  

According to WLA’s sheriff’s department sources, an incarcerated person who suffers from potential blackout seizures shouldn’t be housed in a single person cell, but should instead be placed in a dorm, with dorm mates who could alert deputies in the event of a seizure.

In the case of the man prone to seizures who was residing in MCJ in a single cell, according to WLA’s sources. The man requested what is known as a seizure helmet, a common accessory recommended for people who have seizures that cause them to fall down.  Reportedly, he never received one.

There also was reportedly a problem with the man getting his anti-seizure medication consistently.

The man reportedly filed a complaint about these issues, and when in the day room, told some of those residents in his unit that he’d never gotten a reply.

One day in March, according to our sources, he did have a seizure alone in his cell, and hit his head. By the time anyone checked on him, the man was reportedly dead.

Now, according to our sources, the man is listed as another of this year’s seven deaths. We have not been able to confirm this account with LASD officials.

Yet, department sources with extensive experience in custody, told us they found the story believable, and that chronic overcrowding, and chronic understaffing, has produced indifference by some LASD officials, who are in a position to mitigate some of the worst problems in inside the jails.


We talked with LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman about the deaths at MCJ, and the fears of those inside the facility.

Many of the deaths inside the county’s jails, said Huntsman, while unfortunate, “aren’t predictable or preventable.”

That is not the case, according to the Inspector General, with other deaths.

“We have a substantial and recurring number of deaths in custody that are predictable and preventable,” he said.

One of the primary reasons the county was “not able to prevent” these deaths,” was because of overcrowding.  “We have too many people in custody, and too few people to watch over them.  And too few doctors and staff to care for them in the facilities we currently have.”  

The result, Huntsman said, are conditions in the jails that are unconstitutional.

For years, I have encouraged the sheriff to release people,” he said.

“However, I believe it’s still the only solution because we don’t have enough room in the jails we have, for the staff we have.”

It may not be the ideal solution, said Huntsman.

“But it’s the constitutionally mandated solution.”


**Editor’s note, April 14, 2024: Since this story was published, there have been three more deaths.

**Editor’s note, April 28, Since this story was published there have been four more deaths.


  • I was an inmate at MCJ in 2005 and when I was processed in I was given a red bracelet to indicate that I could not be transferred due to my medical condition(epilepsy). A couple days later the pulled me out of my cell to be sent to the Wayside facility in Castaic. I informed one of the deputies that I had a bracelet that meant I could not be transferred. The deputys response was let me see that and he proceeded to cut the wrist band off and said problem solved.

  • There are many areas to place blame here; but the last would be LASD. With shouts for defunding, the most recent deplorable contract offered to deputies by the county, oversight from inexperienced monitors who have never actually done the job…. it’s a wonder we get anyone applying this day in age.

    While MCJ is out dated, the county does not have adequate facilities to accommodate the displacement should it close. In my two decades of service, I’ve seen countless ideal locations for a replacement facility get snatched up by other county entities. The massive lot at Vignes & Cesar Chavez would’ve been perfect, or the lot behind MCJ that was converted into the transitional housing which sits nearly vacant after tens of millions in tax dollars were squandered on it.

    LASD has already closed other facilities due to depopulation. The closed facilities are either outdated just like MCJ, beyond repair, or are not in a centralized location conducive to the transient needs of court/medical procedures.

    Those that remain in custody are incarcerated for significant offenses, or await transfers to prison or treatment facilities.Does MCJ need to close? Yes. Can the county afford to effectively operate without a suitable replacement? Absolutely not.

  • @ Tradition Of Service:
    You are either unheralded & low key “Brass” at LASD or the freshest pair of eyes, period.
    Either way, you are totally right with every comment that you post.
    I’m sure if you publicly spoke up & out, you would be flogged then crucified by the tolerated bad elements within LASD

  • @Interesting-

    I’m not brass. I also can’t/won’t get into great detail. I can just say I speak from experience, and am tired of the Yes Men/Women getting promoted on allegiance rather than merit.

    Those truly at the helm continue to push on, hoping for just one more bar or star before the proverbial şħįť hits the fan… leaving those who have tried to do what’s right all along left to clean up the mess. I know I’m sure as hell not the only one that thinks this, but I’m the one saying it.

  • @ Tradition,
    You nailed it. It’s not how capable one is, but who they [WLA edit] and whose coat tails they ride on. Over the years all these “Yes men & Women ” have destroyed the Department. They have no integrity just self-preservation to the next promotion.

  • The safety checks ✔️ implemented in the Los Angeles County Jail, specifically MCJ never worked.
    What initially started as safety checks were written initials ultimately leading to scanning bar codes.

    Deputies would go through the “pipe chase” to sign or scan the sheet at the back of the module without visually checking on inmates.

    You always knew when safety checks were manipulated when inmates were non-responsive or hanging (in single man cells).

    The “liver check” on deceased bodies by the coroner always told the truth (approximate time of death) when Deputies did not.

    My observations are from the 1980’s era so maybe some things have changed at MCJ but judging from the above story, not very much.

  • **** “More than 2,000 unhoused people died in Los Angeles in 2023, meaning an average of nearly six deaths a day of people living on the street or in shelters in the nation’s most populous county.”****

    Sounds like the mentally ill drug addicted criminals of LA County are much safer in the LA COunty Jail system based on the realities noted below in this article. Celeste, maybe some of these stats should have been added to your story for credibility sake?


  • The checks program was ridiculous. While I was assigned to MCJ, we had to do it every 30 mins due to the Rosa Act. But they wanted us to do it every 25 mins. We would literally set our timers on our watches to go off every 20 mins. Now what most of these reports and journalism doesn’t tell is all the walks we missed due to; A-415 inmate (Inmates fighting each other), B-415 Deputy (Inmate fighting a Deputy), C- Full blown Riot. What Deputy is going to walk down 24 Baker Row with other deputies in riot gear just to ensure the safety walk is performed.

  • @ Reality Check
    Your comment combined with your opinion and article has nothing to do with the conditions, treatment and deaths of inmates in the Los Angeles County Jail System.

  • Reality Check?
    Comical to see another “Reality Check” in this thread as compared to previous thread.
    With no legal ownership to anyone using the “Reality Check” pen name, your failure to pick another name is hilarious.

  • @Facts-

    I’m sure there has been a drastic increase in the amount of narcotics-related in custody deaths as well. I’m sure the author has access to those statistics as well, but the story wouldn’t be as shocking.

    There was a time when it was harder to get narcotics into facilities. Now, the line staff’s hands are tied because they “don’t want to make waves”. In order to maintain control of an environment like the LASD jails, one must have control first… and we’ve lost that. This is due to a myriad of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because we as law enforcement no longer have a dog in the fight. We used to conduct searches constantly throughout our shifts… now it practically takes an act of congress to conduct a simple pat down without some inmate claiming they’ve been “violated”.

    Whether these people used drugs on the street (more likely), or they magically decided to try them for the first time in confinement (far less likely)…. they’re still adults. They made the decision to use; it’s on them.

    Lastly, remember…. if someone is actually still in a jail in LA County with Gascón as District Attorney… this is either likely not their first violent rodeo… or they did something reeeeeally bad in order to not be eligible to bond out.

    So yes @Facts, his statement is relative; because these inmates aren’t dying at the hands of the staff or due to conditions that are within the control of LASD… I’m gonna bet heavily that the majority of the increase is due to either narcotics overdoses, or claims of inadequate medical care.

  • @ Tradition of Service

    Only the autopsy can tell the real story…..

    I’ll bet my pension check, that the lack of medical supervision and attention supercedes the narrative of the street druggie dying in custody.

    Yes, I do know that medical personnel are understaffed & overwhelmed among many other factors. It is what it is.

  • Dear Real Reality Check,

    Sorry I didn’t keep track of your previously used and claimed Reality Check pen name. So I’ll gladly switch it up to “Just Reality” as my point was mainly to highlight the “real realities” of how many homeless drug addicted criminals die on the streets of LA County every single day without any politician or CJ Activist taking ownership, yet the minute one of these very sick individuals ends up in our jail and just happens to “kick the bucket,” suddenly it’s all the fault of the LASD and our old antiquated jails must be shut down, after loving and caring family payouts are collected.

    @Facts Matter, I completely disagree with YOUR opinion and believe the stats and issues detailed in this article have 100% (ok, maybe 99%) everything to do with the relatively “few” inmates that happen to die while in custody, due to their very poor health issues/ailments that is killing them in much greater numbers while they are dismissed and ignored on the streets.

    Maybe read it again and ask yourself, where do most of the inmates in our jails come from?


  • @Facts-

    No argument here re: CHS (Correctional Health Services, formerly part of LASD’s Medical Services Bureau) needs a fresh set of eyes. Overdoses have become a huge problem in the jails though…. more so now than in my nearly 20 years of service.

    While medical staff might be short staffed, they aren’t the ones getting crucified by the media about deaths… but claiming malpractice or medical indifference isn’t the flavor of the week/month/year/decade. Continually bashing first responders is the only thing that sells nowadays.

    LASD has been and continues to be in the crosshairs of the Left… even though we’re a tattered version of our former self. But after all of the oversight and “nonpartisan” influence…. we’re left to deal with situations such as this… an overall lack of control and staffing as a whole. I’m still waiting for some of the progressive minions who love judging us to join the department to show us how we’ve been doing it all wrong for the last 174 years and counting.

  • @Anonymous,
    Braulio Robledo was put on the Brady list
    Brady Offense No. 1632170258 – 980657075.
    He was the one who instigated the entire thing at Kennedy Hall. @ Alejandro you were there.

    So what is ICIB going to do about this habitual knucklehead. IAB is at Stations right now questioning Deputies about their Station ink, the cliques they belong to and Serial numbers & logs.

    We need to clean and eradicate this plague not for public consumption but for the Department we love and care about. This is NOT an us versus them ( the public ).

    Sheriff Luna you campaigned on the issue of cleaning up Deputy Gangs withing the Department. The citizens of LA County elected you to clean this plague. Please do your job Sir !!!

  • Not so long ago, LASD deputies were fired for lying which compromises and alters any righteous outcome.

    The public trust has to be at an all-time low along with images of rogue hooligans running rampant and unchecked among sworn personnel.

    Good luck with recruitment and retention.

  • @Dinosaur-

    Unfortunately the “Good Ol’ Boys” mentality is still alive and well within the ranks. We have yet to see the impact/repercussions from the Cal-DOJ investigation; but for it to remain “sealed” can’t be good, and won’t last. I would think such progressive outlets such as this forum and Knock-LA would be foaming at the mouth to see the results. What good is the investigation if still controlled by the county that has let it go wrong, for so very long.

    Egos and nepotism are still the name of the game; along with doing what is popular vs what is right…. sweeping stuff under the rug and pray it doesn’t surface on one’s watch. Well, the time is now; if they did their jobs, this should mean a new chapter within our departments history. It’s time for LASD to take a long, hard look in the mirror…. time to shed its skin…. or take new form. The days of nuckle dragging are over, exit stage left and don’t look back. We don’t need you for the 120 day contract… your MegaFlex should be more than enough.

    Those of us whom have always tried to do what’s right, no matter the cost remain. I just hope the select few remaining execs with the same mindset who have fortitude will do the same. Heaven forbid we call on those who still hold unbiased institutional knowledge.

    …….time will tell.

  • Wait until you see the next round of Executive promotions, can you say “Bandito”. Second to None never ends and their discord for change will never end until that station is closed down. Alex’s minions will continue to undermine the organization and remain a cancer until 2026 when the narcissistic will try to make his return. A Zebra never looses its strips. LASD is a joke.

  • @Anonymous,
    Luna’s Command staff is representative of the entire LASD family ( just like the community). It is composed of an inked Temple V gal, Regulator, Viking, and now soon to be the Bandido ese from ELA.
    Sheriff Luna believes in representation of the various Cliques within our Department.
    What an effing joke!

  • Not to venture too far off the topic of deaths in the Los Angeles County Jail, the topic should include the death of a prominent sheriff department, LASD.

    The facts depicting the culture within the department is totally shocking, embarrassing and reprehensible.

  • Kwong (SEB Reserve) is very close to Commander Giandomenico (SEB- Former ELA Caveman) who himself has had several POEs filed against him for inappropriately touching female civilians employees and harrassment. He is another dirty birdy.

  • @Anonymous,
    Has anyone in Luna’s executive staff even looked into Commander Giandomenico. They will find a lot of skeletons in the closet. The hits keep on coming.

Leave a Comment