ACLU Witnesses Brutal Beating of Los Angeles County Jail Inmate Detained on a Non-Violent Marijuana Charge (Press Release)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 8, 2011
CONTACT: ACLU  Will Matthews, ACLU National at (212) 549-2582 or 2666; firstname.lastname@example.org  Sandra Hernandez, ACLU of Southern California at (213) 977-5252; email@example.com
ACLU Witnesses Brutal Beating Of Los Angeles County Jail Inmate By Sheriff’s Deputies
Attack Underscores Need For Systemic Reform And Decrease In Jail’s Population
LOS ANGELES - February 8 - The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC) today condemned a recent brutal beating by two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies of a detainee at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, part of the county jail system.
The violent attack January 24 on James Parker, detained on a non-violent marijuana charge, was witnessed by ACLU/SC’s Esther Lim, who is assigned to monitor all county jails.
“We believe Mr. Parker’s beating is not an isolated incident,” said Hector Villagra, incoming Executive Director of the ACLU/SC. “Rather, it highlights the rampant violence that continues to plague the county’s jails, and demands court intervention to protect detainees from brutal attacks and retaliation. That the ACLU/SC monitor witnessed a brutal attack in plain sight is alarming and can only lead us to conclude detainees are subject to even greater cruelty when no one is looking.”
The beating was made public Monday in a sworn statement submitted in federal court by Lim, who watched through a glass window as deputies repeatedly punched, kneed and tasered Parker while he was lying motionless on the floor.
“Mr. Parker looked like he was a mannequin that was being used as a punching bag,” Lim says in her statement. “I thought he was knocked out, or perhaps even dead.”
Lim hit the glass divider hoping to get the deputies’ attention and stop the attack, but the officers continued to punch and taser Parker.
“Mr. Parker was not fighting with the deputies,” Lim says in her statement, adding he “was not trying to kick, hit or otherwise fight with the deputies.”
Yet deputies continued to order him to “stop resisting” and “stop fighting,” while simultaneously punching and kneeing his limp body repeatedly and tasering him multiple times.
The deputies then wrote in a jail log that Parker had been fighting and resisting, in complete contradiction to what the ACLU witnessed.
“This kind of brutal beating is unacceptable,” said Peter Eliasberg, ACLU/SC managing attorney. “We are also very concerned that shortly after the beating the sheriff’s department issued a log report contradicting what witnesses, including our monitor, saw. The report claims Parker was resisting and fighting with deputies. That is blatantly false.”
Parker now faces charges for allegedly assaulting the very deputies who beat him.
Lim’s statement, along with that of another witness to the beating, was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to bolster a motion the ACLU filed in November seeking a federal court order prohibiting jail deputies from retaliating against prisoners through violence or threats.
The ACLU first sued Los Angeles County and its sheriff on behalf of all detainees in the county’s jail system in 1975, charging the conditions of their confinement violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Many remedial orders have been issued over the years in the case, Rutherford v. Block. But the systemic problems plaguing the system have recently become so acute the ACLU in December asked U.S. District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson to order a new trial in the case based on “an escalating crisis of deputy violence, abuse and inmate suicides” at Men’s Central Jail, another of the system’s facilities. The ACLU contends the problems plaguing the jail system can only be fixed by finding alternatives to incarceration like drug treatment and community-based programs for the low-level, non-violent offenders and detainees with serious mental illnesses that comprise the vast majority of the system’s population, and seeks to prove the jail’s population can be safely, rapidly and radically reduced with existing resources and at great savings to county taxpayers.
A report released by the ACLU in September painted a stark picture of unacceptable levels of violence in the jails, including reports of deputies beating handcuffed detainees, injuring some so badly that they ended up in intensive care. The report also showed retaliation against inmates to be an acute problem. Several prisoners have been severely punished for meeting with representatives of the ACLU, which is the court-appointed monitor of conditions inside L.A.'s county jails.
“The reign of terror we’re uncovering in the Los Angeles County jails is unmatched by any of the hyper-violent prisons and jails across the country we have investigated,” said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “The brutality there is so blatant and routine that the deputies carried out a vicious beating in full view of a court-appointed monitor. The court needs to take immediate action to ensure the protection of prisoners.”
A copy of the ACLU’s sworn statement, as well as that of the beating’s other witness, is available online at:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 25, 2010
CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Border Patrol Agent Fired for Drug Legalization Views
Agent Sues to Defend First Amendment Rights
EL PASO, TX -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of police officers, judges, prosecutors and federal agents, is standing in support of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who was fired for saying in a casual conversation that legalizing and regulating drugs would help stop cartel violence along the southern border with Mexico. After sharing his views with a colleague, the fired agent, Bryan Gonzalez, received a letter of termination stating that his comments are "contrary to the core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication, and espirit de corps." Last week, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, Gonzalez filed a lawsuit seeking damages.
"There's no doubt that the so-called 'war on drugs' is a gigantic failure and that it causes violence, hurts our economy and forces dedicated law enforcers to risk their lives in the line of fire for a lost cause," said Terry Nelson, a former U.S. border patrol agent who is now a board member for LEAP. "But whether you think we should legalize drugs or not, you have to support the right of brave law enforcers like Bryan Gonzalez to exercise the First Amendment and share their views on policies that impact them on a daily basis."
Gonzalez, the fired agent, specifically mentioned LEAP and its website - http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com - as a part of the conversation that led to his being fired.
To read Gonzalez's complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, visit: http://aclu-nm.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/GONZALEZ_COMPLAINT_FILED.pdf
Previously, in a separate case, one of LEAP's pro-legalization police speakers, Jonathan Wender, sued the Mountlake Terrace, Washington police department after having been fired for expressing his views on the failure of the "war on drugs." In January 2009, the department settled, reinstating Wender and giving him back pay and full benefits.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.
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