Last year, as most of you know, WitnessLA and Spot.us collaborated to form the LA Justice Report.
Our first project was the three-part series called Follow the Gang Money detailing how Los Angeles spent its $26 million in gang violence reduction dollars.
The results got attention from local media such as the LA Times, LA Weekly, LAist, FishbowlLA, KPFK and LA Observed, (and more as can be seen here and here)—and at city hall (where not everyone was pleased).
Now, we’re launching a brand new investigative project called DANGEROUS JAILS.
Here’s the deal:
In May of 2010 the Southern California ACLU released a 64-page report charging that Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail was fostering what they described as a “culture of violence and fear,” in which certain guards routinely beat and otherwise physically abused prisoners— sometimes to the point of severe injury. If inmates tried to report the mistreatment, said the report, those same deputies threatened them with physical harm.
In addition to reports from inmates, the ACLU jail monitors say they personally observed injuries ranging from broken ribs, black eyes and boot marks on inmates back, to severe head wounds.
The report also detailed horrific incidents of inmate-on-inmate violence that the deputies failed to stop, actively facilitated—or, in some cases, according to the report, “orchestrated.”
After the ACLU report was released, Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the LA County Sheriff’s Department, catagorically rejected the charges. “That allegation, absolutely false,” Whitmore told KPCC’s Frank Stoltze.
However, while local media dutifully covered the release of the report, no one seemed investigate further, and the issue vanished quickly from the public consciousness.
OKAY SO WHAT IS THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER? Is the LA County jail system really that bad?
We feel it is important to find out.
With these questions in mind, The LA Justice Report has launched our newest investigative project: DANGEROUS JAILS.
In the first stage of our reporting we have already turned up a series of alarming cases. (More on this soon.)
Yet we have much investigative work still to go.
As with the Follow the Gang Money series, award winning journalist, Matt Fleischer, will be reporting for the project, while I act as editor. Yet the interim updates will come from both of us.
As time goes along, I’ll be bugging everyone here to participate in short Spot.Us questionnaires that allow you to donate money to the project without taking $$ out of your own pocket.
And, remember, unlike prisons, about 70-80 percent of the nearly 20,000 detainees in the Los Angeles County jail system at any given time, are there awaiting trial, not serving time on a criminal conviction.
In other words, if a pattern of violence and abuse is truly occurring, it could affect anyone with the misfortune to be arrested and jailed, however briefly, in LA County.
More to come, so stay tuned.