The death of 18-year-old inmate George Rosales comes in the middle of a storm of reports of misconduct by deputies and brutality of inmates at L.A. County jails.
Rosales was punched in the face by a deputy on Tuesday after trying to make a break for the elevator, according to prison officials.
Two days later, Rosales was found unresponsive in his cell and died on his way to the hospital.
An autopsy is pending, and officials say it is unclear if the blow to the head two days prior had anything to do with Rosales' death.
The 18-year-old's death comes after allegations of brutality have surfaced from inmates and jailhouse volunteers.
"There needs to be a complete overhaul of the way the system is run," said Peter Eliasberg, legal director for ACLU of Southern California. "They need to have in place real investigations; they need to have new management and leadership."
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said he would welcome a comprehensive federal civil rights investigation in to the L.A. County jail system.
"I see there's a pattern of disrespect to inmates by a small percent of deputies," said Baca. "But a small percent of deputies is too much. There shouldn't be any disrespect. We have to change the culture of the jail, improve it."
Baca was scheduled to speak to inmates in a town hall-style meeting about the incident Saturday at the Men's Central Jail chapel.