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Boyle Heights students demand civilian oversight of L.A. County jails

December 21, 2012 |  3:16 pm

A group of about 40 Boyle Heights charter school students held a rally at Mariachi Plaza demanding the formation of an independent civilian review board for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The students and organizers with the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails are asking for the board to be permanent and made up of citizens who have subpoena power.

The coalition's founder, Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, said the students took a special interest in the issue because they have family and friends who have been incarcerated.

“It’s interesting to see how many students have been impacted by sheriff violence,” Cullors-Brignac said. “We need a civilian oversight board, otherwise the violence will continue.”

The L.A. County jail system, the largest in the country and housing about 19,000 inmates, has come under fire for excessive violence in the jails.

Students were expected to speak at the rally about their experiences with the jail system. The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails addressed the county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, asking for the creation of a civilian oversight panel.

But sheriff’s officials say there is already enough oversight, including the Office of Independent Review, the Board of Supervisors and jail commission, in addition to plans to create an independent inspector general’s office to oversee the department.

“People understandably want an independent investigation, when in fact they already have several independent investigations going on,” said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department.

“We sympathize and empathize with the citizens calling for independent reviews, but we would ask them to understand that you already got it.”


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-- Adolfo Flores