Abuse Of Prisoners At County Detention Facilities Sparks FBI Civil Rights Probe

(April 16)   The action of several employees at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga and Adelanto Detention Facility in the High Desert is the focus of an investigation by the FBI.
The detention center has been for two decades and is currently the largest jail in terms of inmate population maintained by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The just completed Adelanto Detention Facility, wings of which were recently put into operation, will eventually house a comparable number of inmates as West Valley.
Based upon statements by the sheriff’s department and FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller, the FBI has interested itself in longstanding accusations of civil rights violations of prisoners at the center.
So far, the Sentinel has learned, the actions of 16 sheriff’s department employees or former employees are under scrutiny. Three have been terminated. One resigned under threat of termination.
The FBI initially undertook its investigation after receiving what was characterized as “highly credible” information that in March three deputies had participated in an incident in which inmates were handcuffed or shackled to a fence and then shocked with taser stun guns or otherwise physically assaulted.
At least one of those involved in the beating, the Sentinel is told, was a recent graduate of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Academy.
Three deputies working at the facility in the middle of their work shift two weeks ago were, in the words of one source, “walked off” the detention center grounds in handcuffs by federal agents and then subjected to an interrogation.
At least two of those deputies have recounted past incidents of treatment of inmates similar to the early March handcuffed stunnings that piqued the FBI’s interest, implicating several of their colleagues. In addition, accusations have surfaced that guards used a chemical mace on inmates in their cells at the Adelanto Detention Facility.
The sheriff’s department did not go beyond acknowledging that an investigation was under way with regard to a single incident in March of this year and that three deputies had been terminated. It made no mention of the fourth deputy who had resigned. While a spokesman for the sheriff’s department implied the department was itself conducting the investigation, Eimiller said the sheriff’s department was acting in the capacity of a cooperating agency.
There have been consistent recurrent reports relating to escalating violence, including inmate-on inmate, inmate-on-deputy and deputy abuse of prisoners at West Valley since late 2012. The sheriff’s office does not catalog a report on discipline or use of force against inmates but does collate statistics on inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-deputy incidents. According to the department, in the 18 months after Assembly Bill 109 and Assembly Bill 117 went into effect in October 2011, assaults by inmates against inmates rose 50 percent and assaults by inmates on jail staff doubled. Assembly Bill 109 and Assembly Bill 117, which constitute the legislative basis for California’s so-called prison realignment, mandated the release of prisoners from the state’s 33 prisons so that by June 27, 2013 those facilities were at no more than 137.5 percent of their design capacity. The realignment was intended to bring the state into compliance with an order by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In reducing the state’s prison population, officials in many cases sent prisoners into county facilities. That has resulted, law enforcement officials say, in increasing the number of violent and hardened criminals into the local jail population.

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