Lockdown will end when fights do

first_imgCASTAIC – After nearly two weeks of deadly clashes, a top jail official went cell to cell Wednesday, telling inmates that a systemwide lockdown will end when they stop fighting. “When the smoke cleared, I began trying to dialogue,” said Chief Sam Jones, head of custodial operations for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “House rules are, every man has a right to come into the system and do his time without having to worry about being attacked, injured or ultimately murdered. I told them I owed them that, and I owed their family and friends that.” Jones delivered his ultimatum Tuesday to jails in Castaic’s Pitchess Detention Center, where racial brawls last week killed one inmate and injured dozens more. About 3,000 inmates in nearby Riverside County were in the sixth day of a lockdown there, but officials said cells were peaceful and described the lockdown as a precaution in case Los Angeles County violence spilled over. In adjacent San Bernardino County, black and Hispanic inmates on a jail bus fought with fists and razor blades Tuesday morning. Fifty-five handcuffed and chained inmates were heading from the West Valley Detention Center to a court when a fight broke out in the bus and the driver turned back, said Robin Haynal, spokeswoman for the county Sheriff’s Department. As the inmates were being removed from the bus, fighting broke out again and deputies used a “sting ball” grenade to stop it. Two inmates were slightly injured by the rubber pellets and a third “had been severely kicked by another inmate,” Haynal said. It was the third fight on a jail bus from the detention center. Two earlier clashes injured 14 inmates. It was unclear whether the fighting had a direct link to the violence in Los Angeles County, which has the nation’s largest jail system, but San Bernardino inmates were aware of the problems, Haynal said. In Los Angeles County, Hispanic and black evangelical pastors announced plans Wednesday for a 24-hour vigil in suburban Gardena to pray for an end to the jail violence. Sheriff’s officials have been under intense pressure to quell the fighting. On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors criticized the department for failing to isolate high-risk inmates. A report to supervisors a year ago warned that it was “not permissible” to mix inmates considered to pose a greater threat of violence with offenders of lesser risk. The report by Merrick Bobb, who oversees the Sheriff’s Department for the supervisors, was commissioned after five inmates were killed in seven months in late 2003 and early 2004. The inmate who died Tuesday had been arrested on suspicion of drug possession in Long Beach and was considered a moderate security risk while several others in his six-man cell were in the second-highest risk classification. Some prisoners identified as ringleaders of the recent violence have been shifted out of dormitories and into one- and two-man cells, Jones said. “I feel that we’ve identified most of them,” he said. Whitmore and Jones said they believed the battles are losing momentum. Fights have been shorter, more infrequent, and resulted in fewer injuries, they said. The latest clash was reported Tuesday night and involved about 100 Men’s Central Jail inmates. Blacks and Latinos traded punches shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday in a dormitory but deputies using tear gas and sting-ball pellets quickly broke up the fight, Whitmore said. Four inmates were treated for minor injuries, he said. “We’re winning. We’re doing OK,” Jones said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant On Wednesday, he went to the downtown Men’s Central Jail, where an inmate collapsed and died after a scuffle in a cell Sunday and a brief brawl erupted Tuesday night. More than 18,000 inmates have been denied visits, phone calls, TV access and other privileges because of the violence between black and Hispanic inmates. Jones told The Associated Press that he promised inmates they would get their privileges back when peace is restored. “When I left last night, each dorm applauded and said thank you,” he said. “These people want their mail,” Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said. “They want to watch TV. They want to get back to, if you will, some kind of regular existence behind bars.” last_img

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