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Sheriff Baca meets with community leaders over jail issues

November 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles County jails, under the leadership of Sheriff Lee Baca, are already the subject of an FBI probe into alleged inmate abuse. Now Baca is answering to civil rights leaders demanding answers and big changes.

Criticism of Baca has been intense. He admitted in a community meeting Tuesday night that there is a lot more that can be done. That's why he's joining with community leaders in a series of meetings to try to involve them in the reform process.

The American Civil Liberties Union says Baca ignored the brutal beating of inmates inside the county jail by deputies and should resign.

Baca says he's welcoming an FBI investigation into the matter.

"We're just about wrapping up those allegations, and we'll turn them over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and they'll turn it over to the FBI," said Baca Tuesday.

Part of the reform dictated more cameras be installed in jails. Sixty-nine high-definition cameras have already been installed inside the Men's Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, with 300 more coming by the end of the year.

"If the deputy is being disrespectful, there is going to be retaliation on the deputy, so what I decided is: Where is our prevention strategy?" said Baca.

Baca is also reaching out to the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. At a Tuesday meeting, leaders disagreed with those calling for Baca's resignation.

"We have confidence, Sheriff, that you'll continue to dialogue, to continue the reform process," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president, L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable.

A new state law transferring low-level offenders in state prisons to local jails and facilities is called "realignment," and the sheriff's department is implementing those changes.

The sheriff says his facilities will likely be full by next year.

"I think the state had to do what they had to do, so we're making the best of a bad situation," said Baca.

It was not only jails that were discussed Tuesday; a few attendees at the meeting brought up the problem they see of African-American males, especially young men, feeling unfairly targeted by sheriff's deputies. The sheriff's department spokesman said that if that's true, there's a perception problem, because crime is actually down in the area.

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