Jail Rocked by 2 New Clashes
Los Angeles Times
By Richard Winton
May 25, 2006
After two months of relative calm, the County Jail system was hit this week by two clashes, including one late Tuesday at Men's Central Jail that left a dozen inmates and a deputy injured.
High-risk inmates in the latest incident slung feces and urine at deputies and a nurse, and one Southside gang member displayed a shank, or makeshift knife, leading to the forceable removal of inmates from cells and a lockdown of the massive downtown jail facility.
'We are talking about a shank, a weapon that could have injured or killed another inmate or deputy. The weapon was neutralized,' Sheriff Lee Baca said. 'I am proud of the deputies for being proactive here.'
Two days before Tuesday's incident inmates in the same area of the jail had clashed briefly. No injuries were reported.
The latest violence comes as Baca is beginning the process of moving high-risk inmates from around the sprawling jail system into the high-security Twin Towers Jail, which until now has been utilized to house women and those needing mental health treatment.
The shifts are the centerpiece of his plan to reduce violence in the system.
Officials, however, said the latest incident is troubling because it involved inmates attacking deputies. The clashes earlier this year were between black and Latino inmates.
The attack late Tuesday involved about two dozen members of the Latino Southsiders gang. Inmates began throwing bodily waste during a safety and medical check on a lower tier of the jail and the disturbance quickly spread to an upper tier, said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.
As the incident escalated in the single-man cells for inmates considered high risk, Whitmore said, one inmate displayed a shank, and others barricaded themselves in their cells as deputies from an emergency response team tried to remove them.
Deputies then responded with nonlethal force, including tear gas, rubber 'stingballs' and pepper balls.
At least one inmate set a fire inside a cell as deputies tried to remove the inmates. The fire was quickly put out.
During the struggles, one deputy sprained his hand and 12 inmates were taken to County-USC Medical Center after complaining of various injuries, officials said.
After a protracted series of violent clashes in the jails earlier this year in which dozens of inmates were injured and one was killed, the sheriff launched an initiative to relocate the most violent inmates to the Twin Towers Jail downtown.
Some of those inmates are housed at Men's Central Jail, but many are also housed at Pitchess Detention Center's North Facility, the site of much of the February rioting.
Twin Towers is a newer jail with more single cells and better sight lines than the labyrinthine Men's Central Jail.
In the last couple of weeks, more than 2,000 women have been moved from it to the refurbished Lynwood Jail.
Whitmore said that so far 195 high-risk inmates have been moved from other jails to Twin Towers, but a shortage of deputies is limiting its use, and more will have to be hired before it can be filled up.
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