Original story in the Los Angeles Times | Monday, July 5, 2010
“’L.A. County jails are equipped with so-called suicide-safe blankets purchased for less than $55 each; the thicker, sturdier blankets sheriff’s officials had requested cost more than $135 each,’ said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.
“The blankets that have proven to be faulty for suicide-risk inmates in county jails are also used in other prisons and jails across the country. But sheriff’s officials have said conditions in their jails are particularly challenging…”
“Department officials say inmates chew at the blankets’ border stitching, working them until they give and inmates can tear the material into strips for nooses. ‘They come up with some very clever ways,’ said Cmdr. Stephen Johnson, with the sheriff’s custody operations division, ‘ways we would not consider.’”
So let me get this straight: the Sheriff’s Department is essentially saying that jail detainees are outwitting its custody operations division?
That’s an excuse! Wouldn’t it stand to reason that, in order to chew through bulletproof bedding, suicide-risk prisoners would have to be left to themselves for awfully long stretches at a time?
And I’ve seen firsthand how equally vigilant and lethargic deputies at the L.A. Men’s Central Jail can be, so I know what the quality of their supervision looks like.
With eight suicides in 2009 alone, no wonder Peter Eliasberg, Managing Attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, called MCJ “a modern-day medieval dungeon, a dank, windowless place where prisoners live in fear of retaliation and abuse apparently goes unchecked.” Say what you will about the ACLU, Eliasberg is right when he further describes the conditions there as “simply among the most barbaric of any jail or prison in the nation.”