According to a recent article in the December 9, 2013 LA Times, “FBI agents began arresting Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials Monday as part of a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of abuse and misconduct inside the county’s jails, according to sources familiar with the arrests.”
The Los Angeles Times has been covering this theme of misconduct in the jails for several years now, and given the nature of the work I do and how I do it, articles like these always cause me concern.
One has to wonder what goes on in the minds of these deputies when dealing with the criminal element. Do they (as the police officers/peace keepers) look at these prisoners as “half human” and, therefore, feel they can justify treating these individuals in a manner that is degrading, disrespectful, dehumanizing and deadly?
For all my years as a Probation Officer, I have grown quite familiar with the personalities of the “criminal element,” and I knew going into this chosen profession that I would have to deal with some “knuckleheads” from time to time. Yet, an individual’s belligerent behavior doesn’t give me the right to violate their “civil rights” by using physical, verbal, psychological, and emotional abuse in order to establish an immoral authoritative regime. When people break established laws they have consequences they must accept but they don’t deserve to also be brutalized and mistreated once incarcerated. They are expected to serve their sentence as their debt to society.
It is always my best hope that a Prop 36 client of mine never sees the inside of a jail cell because they violated probation beyond repair. And in writing my soon to be published book, “When Nobody’s Home: An in depth look at drug dependency through the eyes of a Probation Officer,” when one of my goals is to work with law enforcement leadership, police and probation officers and counselors to better understand how to reduce recidivism as they also treat offenders with more empathy and compassion. The Criminal Element wasn’t born in a person, it was born out of the experiences these adults and sometimes teenagers had as very young children and, throughout, most of their adolescent development.
I have spoken to former inmates who went through the LA County Jail system and I was shocked and stunned as I listened to the stories of abuse that they witnessed and endured themselves. Some mentioned to me that they were not surprised, by what they read in the newspaper. These individuals proceeded to tell me that the majority of sheriff deputies are like “gang members with a badge.” It is all about getting others to submit to their authority by punishment, fear, and intimidation.
What is the mental status of these deputies? What is the vetting process? When you give someone a position of authority and a “badge,” what will that badge represent to that individual?
To read the full story that prompted and inspires this opinion piece visit: http://www.latimes.com/la-me-ln-fbi-sheriff-arrests-jail-20131209,0,5070461.story