ACLU Civil Liberties LA County Jail LASD

On Being Disabled and in Jail in LA


Peter Johnson was fifteen years old
when he was shot, 24 years ago. He was waiting for a bus, and the shooter was aiming at someone else. The bullet hit his spine. Now he is paralyzed from the chest down. He has no feeling in his legs. But he can get around pretty well with a wheel chair.

In October of 2007, Johnson was arrested for petty theft.
After booking, he was kept in the inmate reception center of the LA County jail for between 8-10 hours. Evidently this section of the jail has no wheel-chair accessible bathrooms so,although Johnson told deputies of his mounting discomfort, it appears they did nothing. Johnson was left to relieve himself in his chair and clothes. He also had no access to drinking water as the water fountain was too high for him to reach from the chair.

When finally Johnson was transferred to jail proper, things just got worse.


Donald Peterson is 47-years old and a veteran. He served in the military for more than nine years in Panama, Granada and in Desert Storm. In 1989 he broke his back in a work accident. Later he was shot in the back and in the hip. As a consequence of the injuries and the subsequent surgeries, Peterson needs a wheelchair to get around.

After Peterson was charged with a crime and taken to LA County jail to await court proceedings, his wheelchair was taken away altogether
. Instead, he was given a walker, which he was unused to using so he repeatedly fell. He was also denied the catheter bag he depended upon for nighttime relief so often slept in soiled sheets. When Peterson was transferred to another cell, for several days he was even denied the walker and was reduced to crawling.


These and scores of other alarming tales of disabled inmates—many convicted of nothing, and awaiting trial—being denied basic services,
medication and necessary treatment are all part of a law suit that was filed yesterday by the ACLU and the Disability Rights Legal Center in order to stop what the ACLU describes as “systemic discrimination against inmates with disabilities.”

In an investigation that included interviews with almost 70 inmates over several months, the civil rights attorneys heard accounts of them having to sit or lie in their own waste for hours because wheelchair-accessible toilets and showers were either non-existent or dangerous, or because guards took away catheter bags that allowed them relief at night. Others had to drag themselves on the floor because they had no access to their wheelchairs or, when they did, bathroom doors weren’t wide enough for them.

“There were no grab bars,” said Francis Tribble,
an inmate who is in a wheelchair after a car crash shattered his left leg and crushed his feet. “I had to lower myself out of my wheelchair at the entrance to the toilet and crawl and drag myself along the ground . . . then pull myself up to the seat. The ground was filthy, which made it even worse.”

Several of those involved in the jail monitoring and inspections,
describe conditions for the disabled as the worst they’ve seen in any American corrections facility.

“This is the most egregious example of government brutality
I have ever witnessed,” said Virginia Keeny, one of the attorneys filing suit. “These individuals are being treated worse than animals.”

When I chatted yesterday about the issue
with ACLU spokeswoman, Celeste Durant, she said that she was surprised that, other than the LA Times, there has been virtually no coverage of the jail conditions at all since the ACLU announced the suit. “Only the Times and one TV crew from Fox 11 covered it,” she said. “There has not the kind of attention you’d think this kind of story would get.”

In the Times story, reporter Richard Winton
quotes Sheriff Lee Baca as blaming jail overcrowding and aging facilities for the problem.

“We do, quite frankly, the best we can. But we can do better,” he said. “The ACLU is wonderful at presenting our problems but never comes up with any solutions.”

It should be noted that if the state legislature goes ahead with its latest plan to relieve overcrowding in the California’s prison, then the LA County jail’s over crowding dilemma—and the care of disabled inmates— may get much, much worse, not better.


  • From your linked article: “In an ominous sign for efforts to end federal oversight of state prisons, state Senate Republicans on Tuesday rejected a $7-billion proposal to build medical facilities intended to improve unconstitutionally poor healthcare for inmates.”

    SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS!!!!!!???????

    They could buy beach front condominiums for these prisoners for that!

    So, I don’t guess that your next post will about the importance of balancing the state budget without increasing taxes.

  • P.S. I still sympathize with the handicapped prisoners. However, the problem seems to be more of having a staff of sorry government workers not willing to do anything rather than a lack of money. I’d be kicking some fannies and let those worthless workers sit in a wheelchair for a couple of days without allowing them access to facilities. Sometimes it seems as if prison guards are not much better than the prisoners.

  • This reminds me of a Chris Rock comedy routine, where someone is bragging about taking care of his baby, as Chris Rock says “that’s what your supposed to do”. You’re also supposed to stay out of jail.

  • @lost resident… ever seen cops, notice the line they say, parties are concidered innocent till proven otherwise in the court of law.. you im sure are part of the biggoted problem.. its exactly your attitude and assumptive ignorance that has wrecked the justic system…with that sense of propriety and who has lived a sheltered life.. guess what, ive been to jail on false charges.. ive had to wait till cops proved themselves ignorant of the law, and case was rejected by DA to file 5 felony counts FROM LAPD, with 8 cops, 6 cars, 5 trumped up charges, 4 witness statements, all supervised by West dev Commander Andy Smith. They do not like me, i like them less.. currently, i get to waggle it at em, cause they can not arrest me, due to the extortion.. they had 12 months to come to a finding in internal affairs, currently we are at month 19… i never had an arraignment, yet they refuse to seal their worthless claims (extortion and hebus corpus issue) so yeah stuff happens, and it will happen if you use the law as intended, cops dont like to work, so they like to bully you from your rights and people fear coming close to law.. its a definitive line.. and yes all day cops leap across it.. I have shut 3 municipalities from contact with me.. they may detain me, but sans contact and have to bring other agencies to deal with me.. belive that makes them cry.
    and hey ignorant mut.. people are arrested to see an arraignment to see if there is a case against them rather than a useless jock who has no marketable skills is having a good day or not.. or maybe you took his chick.. its life.. now going to prison as a convict is an other conversation, but your too many ignorant to even bother trying to expalin such base logical matters.. but ten again, the blessing is knowing your so fuggin dumb and ignorant of the law, you indeed would gladly bend over to let them have easy access.. enjoy a town of 3 cops… ps to really hurt a pigs feelings i rock 2.5k gucci handcuffs.. fug your government wage.. im no common criminal dispite the alligations, fact im far from criminal, and 95% youll catch a cop guilty as sin, they have zero rights, dispite their disillusion nothing comes with a badge.. badge is mearly an id, to identify them, and binds them to duty and obligations.. they have nothing above that.. i have letters to and from the chief of police in gardena that i do nothignbut waggle it at em, right at the line, all the while telling them EXACTLY WHY THEY CAN NOT DO CHIT AND WHAT RIGHTS I DID HAVE.. TELL A COP HES WRONG IN HIS STATMENT IT COULD HAVE GONE WRONG AND HE HAD A RIGHT TO SMASH MY FACE IN THE GROUND.. AS HIS BOSS AGREES, AT NO TIME DOSE HE HAVE ANY SUCH RIGHT, AND IN FACT HAD IT GONE WRONG, HED BE 100% LIABLE, AND I WAS IN MY RIGHT TO DEFEND MY LIFE AT ALL COSTS.. followed with to be read and understood, touch me again in a criminal capacity, know i will beat your ass.. fuck a lazy cop.. indeed the problem in the jails is due to the system.. fug bacca blaiming aclu for not solving his problem, do your damn job, cops do not deserve pentions…

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