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U.S. Justice Department probes Orange County jails


The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an extensive investigation into Orange County’s jail system, which for more than a decade has been mired in allegations that sheriff's deputies mistreated inmates and used excessive force to keep control inside the county’s five jails, the Sheriff’s Department has confirmed to The Times.

The Justice Department is examining various cases to determine whether there is a pattern of Orange County violating the civil rights of inmates. Among the more recent cases, an inmate was stomped to death by fellow prisoners after a deputy allegedly and erroneously told them he was child molester. A county grand jury later criticized the Sheriff's Department for trying to impede the investigation and concluded that there was evidence of rampant abuse at the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange.

The Orange County district attorney earlier this year criticized deputies for a "code of silence" that hampered prosecutors' ability to investigate possible criminal activities by jailers. In addition, the Sheriff's Department has come under fire for using Taser stun guns on handcuffed or restrained inmates. Two inmates died after being stunned, and new Sheriff Sandra Hutchens ended the practice earlier this year.

The investigation, which falls under the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, has been underway for several months and may take more than a year to complete. If a pattern of misconduct is found, the Justice Department could seek a settlement or a court-ordered federal consent decree similar to the one brought against the Los Angeles Police Department after the Rampart corruption scandal. It took nearly a decade for the LAPD to have federal oversight lifted.

Orange County officials were not told why the investigation was initiated, and Justice Department officials would only confirm its existence. But the federal act outlines certain conditions that start such a process, among them whether the attorney general has reasonable cause to believe that people are being subject to “egregious or flagrant conditions which deprive” them of legal rights or causes them to “suffer grievous harm.”

—Tami Abdollah in Orange County

Full story: U.S. probes Orange County's jail system

Photo: An inmate was fatally beaten by fellow prisoners at the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange after a sheriff's deputy erroneously told them that he was child molester. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (10)

Long, long overdue! I hope they also investigate the medical services (or lack thereof) in the cesspool, aka-Men's Central Jail.

The "untouchable" OCSD is about to get a huge wake-up call.

I was locked into Theo Lacey for a DUI about 8 years ago. I watched as guards beat the crap out of a drug addict for falling asleep in line. They left him naked and sobbing on the floor. I also saw them playing solitaire on their work computers, keeping people waiting and then brag to inmates about the amount of over time and double time they were drawing while doing nothing.

Tax dollars at work.

Well I would think based on my own experiences that Orange County has the worst policepeople anywhere outside the southeastern US. They are total jerks and I am not surprised they are being investigated. They racially profile, they think they are superior to others, and they like to come down on people for ticky tack things like jay walking just because they can. If it was up to me I would fire them all and hire NYPDers.

WHO CARES? They are in PRISON. They left a victim, then cry about poor tv reception, I could care less,

Being in jail must be like a living hell, a nightmare. I've heard some terrible stories about being in jail that are more inhumane then how an animal is treated and it should not be this way.

Not everyone in jail is a bad person. They're human beings that should be treated with some dignity and respect.
I hope our Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will help the people in jails from inhumane treatment like he did with the inhumane nurses.

We are paying deputy sheriffs six figure salalry and benefit packages and giving the early 90% retirements and they are no better than thugs.

there appears to be no way to EMAIL this to a friend????

boo hoo. poor prisoners.

D.O.J. how about looking into the court system as well especially the Torrance court along with the Torrance police department.

I applaude the DOJ investigation, but who investigates the DOJ?

The DOJ has been the bane of my existence. For 8 years my boyfriend has been fighting the Feds for the right to stay out of detention and to remain in the only country he has ever known. Mike has lived here legally since he was 2 years old. He's a Lawful Permanent Resident.

In 1978 when Mike was 18, he was foolish enough to accept a stolen $50 8 track tape deck from his buddy; In 2001 Mike was retroactively classified (on an expunged misdemeanor) as an aggravated felon for purposes of removal.

Mike is representing himself - DOJ has four government attorneys crafting arguments against him. This is like shooting a rabbit with a tommy-gun. Mike's removal proceedings should have been terminated years ago. Thanks, DOJ.

follow me on twitter to see updates on Mike's case


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