The handcuffing of an inmate without food for 32 hours is part of a troubling pattern of mistreatment in Los Angeles County jails since the beginning of last year, the Sheriff’s Department’s independent civilian watchdog said yesterday, reports the Los Angeles Times. Inspector General Max Huntsman cited three additional incidents in which inmates were allegedly tethered to objects for prolonged periods. During one that Huntsman called “particularly humiliating,” an inmate was restrained naked in an area where visitors to the jail could see him. In another case, an inmate was restrained for a long period in a way that was physically uncomfortable, Huntsman said.
The mistreatment of tethered inmates underscores challenges Sheriff Jim McDonnell faces in reforming the nation’s largest county jail system, where allegations of deputies brutally beating inmates were once common. Last month, two deputies and their ex-supervisor were convicted of beating a visitor to the jail while he was handcuffed. Cameras in the jails, as well as new rules limiting when deputies can use physical force against inmates, have helped make the jails generally less violent. Serious issues remain, including the treatment of mentally ill inmates as well as unruly or violent inmates who are restrained by tethering them. “It’s pretty clear that the problem is not fixed,” Huntsman said. “There appears to be a pattern, and it isn’t just individual deputies — the problem is more systemic.”