Los Angeles County jailers are more likely to use force against mentally ill inmates than other prisoners, says a Sheriff’s Department report quoted by the Los Angeles Times that acknowledges the lockups need specially trained staff to reduce the violence. About one third of the 582 deputy use-of-force cases in the jails last year involved inmates with mental health histories. About 15 percent of the 15,000 inmates are classified as mentally ill.
The numbers provide a more detailed picture of the confrontations between deputies and inmates, an issue that has sparked intense scrutiny over the last few months and prompted a heated debate yesterday between Sheriff Lee Baca and some L.A. County supervisors. Federal authorities are investigating specific allegations of deputy misconduct and excessive force and last year even smuggled a cellphone into the jail as part of the probe. The disproportionate number of mentally ill inmates involved in altercations with deputies is a new element in the jail controversy.