By February 27, 2014 3 Comments Read More →

Human Rights Violations in Local County Jails – Could You Be Next?

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If you’re not a jail bird, but you find yourself headed to jail, one would think that you would be afraid of the other inmates. In Riverside County however, the opposite is true. Inmates, both felons, petty criminals, and violent prisoners from California’s Prison population (freed into CA county jails by AB 109) are afraid of the Corrections Officers. This is for good reason. Incredible brutality is directed towards the sickest and most weakened inmates on a regular basis.

In order to understand the root of this unrivaled hostility, you must first go back to AB109, better known to inmates as Fed Kicks. AB109 was a legal fight for the rights of California Inmates, most notably Riverside County inmates, to receive adequate healthcare within the corrections system. If the state was unable to comply, the courts said, then tens of thousands of inmates would have to either be freed or alternatively housed. This was just a symptom of a larger problem; asking for medical care while within the Riverside County Jail System was akin to asking for punishment and even torture by corrections officers. Begging for much needed emergency care was a recipe for brutal punishment, such as solitary confinement, safety cells, being stripped naked and forced to lie in the cold, often wet grass outside, or even being forced to endure tasings and brutal beatings. But mostly, medical emergencies, if not met with open hostility and anger, were ignored.

I was witness to much intolerable and savage treatment within the Riverside Couny Jail system when I was incarcerated for missing a court date. I was in Riverside County Jail from 01/13/2014 to 01/30/2014. During this time, I experienced much brutality and torture because I had a broken foot along with a blood disorder which caused me to need blood transfusions almost bi-weekly. Little did I realize at the time just how close to losing my life I came. Once released, I required immediate hospitalization and an emergency blood transfusion.

Because I requested medical care for my broken foot while incarcerated, I was forced to run laps, climb up and down stairs, and lift heavy objects such as bed mattresses so the guards could laugh at my agony. Eventually I collapsed completely and could not walk again for more than a week. When I still insisted that my foot was broken, (later X-rays revealed that the 5th Metatarsal was fractured because of a tumor related to my blood disorder) I was stripped of my clothes and physically thrown into a “safety cell”, which is a rather deceiving term for a cement room with an excrement crusted hole in the floor instead of a toilet. The walls and floor are covered with human feces, vomit, blood and worse. I was thrown into this cell naked and shivering, while frigid air was forced into the room, so as to intensify the punishment. There I languished for 36 long hours in unspeakable agony, alternately begging for my medications, food, water, and warmth. I cried even for a simple blanket to cover my nakedness.None of the above was given. The humiliation is a scar I’ll never forget.

This sort of punishment, better defined as a sort of a sensory deprivation chamber, is outlawed as Torture by the Geneva Conventions. Yet, it is regularly employed in the Riverside County Jail System as a tool to control and abuse inmates who may per chance ask for medical help. I wish to add that I have never raised my voice, cursed, threatened myself or anyone else, or acted disrespectful during any of this time. All of my entirely sane and peaceful actions are on tape for anyone to witness. This is not to say that I am a saint- but I was understandably scared into total submission!

When I was brought back to my bunk, the CO’s made sure I was transferred to the upper tier as well as the upper bunk. This was unquestionably a strong statement on my asking for medical help for the broken foot. The CO’s had made an example of me; don’t ask for medical help.

Shortly thereafter the girl in the cell next door to me began moaning and crying. She was a petite 18 year old, and pregnant for the first time; she was also clearly near her due date. She cried and pleaded over the intercom that she was bleeding. She told them she was having contractions.

The guards ignored her.

When her cries became louder and more excruciating, the other inmates began making noise as well to attract the attention of the Corrections Officers. Still, we were all ignored. Finally after a full three hours of torturous sounds and horrifying gasping, in what seemed like the sounds of death, we heard- a baby crying! The poor girl had given birth in her cell, and still was being completely ignored by the CO’s! It took a full half hour after the birth of her infant child for the officers to realize that something serious had occured on their watch. Eventually, but with no sense of urgency- the paramedics arrived to transport the young mother and child to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the afterbirth and blood still lay sticky and stinking in the cell, as the guards shoved two more inmates into the chamber and locked the door. Not a word was said about infectious diseases, pathogens, or the danger of the open blood and bodily materials that fouled every surface. (The cell was a complete mess by that time; it looked as if someone had exploded inside.) In fact the inmates who were forced to endure these conditions were punished soundly for voicing their concerns. Ironically, neither  inmate had even been charged with a crime yet, or seen the judge within the 72 hours the county has to decide whether to charge an inmate or not. Hence, two innocent women were put at risk to their lives in this insane asylum of a jail system.

The most tragic part of all this treatment is that the girl who gave birth was back in her cell within 12 hours and forced to clean the entire mess up herself. No cleaning supplies were given.

These things, along with uncountable others, such as being forced to run around naked and lay in the grass naked while the bunkers were being “raided” by the deputies, and that in 40 degree weather at 3 o’clock AM, make this a story which is must be told. There are currently an estimated 40,000 men and women incarcerated annually in these jails, according to the Jail Information Management System of Riverside County. Many of these people haven’t had their day in court yet- or are in the midst of court proceedings. This means that they are, by legal and constitutional definition, INNOCENT. Still, for the ones who have already been judged guilty and are serving out their time, is it really okay for society to allow the systematic torture, even death, of our fellow human beings?

One man in the male bunkers at Larry D. Smith Correctional facility died on Christmas day. He had been “shanked” (stabbed) by other inmates and was bleeding profusely when he pleaded for medical help from the jail staff. However because the officers ignored him, he went back to his bed and died there, alone. Stabbed and ignored, on Christmas day, this man bled to death. Not one officer bothered to check on him for three full days. It was only on the third day that they finally realized that the man had died much, much earlier.

This is why I’m coming out and telling my story. These things are what I bear witness to. This is what is happening in our own country, our own backyard. The Riverside County Jail system is one of the largest in the United States- yet it is being run unquestionably as brutally as any concentration camp that ever existed. The only difference is that, at least in the United States, the truth can’t be buried so easily.

ADDED 02/10/2014- I have neglected to tell the story of the dying woman who was detained at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility. This woman should not die without her story being told. All human beings deserve at least some dignity in both life and in death.

This woman had full blown AIDS and was coughing up blood constantly wherever she went. She was unable to even communicate with Corrections Officers because she appeared to have some sort of a seizure or brain disorder that caused intermittent unconsciousness. She would fall when getting out of her bed, while attempting to shower, and blood gushed out of her mouth when she brushed her teeth.

Watching her die was tragic. However this woman was housed in a bunker with 63 other uninfected women! She was rapidly dying, but her residence in this intensely crowded area was putting every one of those 63 other souls at risk of contracting HIV. Perhaps if she had not been experiencing the contagious symptoms of full blown AIDS, she would not have been a danger. However the amount of blood and other bodily fluids that poured of her body- DID put everyone at unreasonable and unnecessary risk. Nonetheless, the requests of other inmates to move her or to be moved elsewhere were ignored or met with solitary confinement and Safety Cells. I’m not sure if this woman is still alive or not, but to put an entire bunker of women, some innocent, some guilty- but upon which the death penalty had been not been imposed, was and is the most egregious charge in this entire I-report.

As a society, we can’t afford to just ignore these things. We MUST insist that the serious human rights violations I’ve witnessed be investigated. We MUST stand up for the civil liberties and the most basic rights of society’s weakest members- or we risk an armed and vicious state being run under our very noses, and inhumane conditions into which we may find ourselves thrown at any time.

Ask yourself: is a parking ticket, a missed court date, jay walking even, a crime severe enough for you to be subjected to Capital Punishment in the same form of HIV infection, as these 63 women have been? While in jail I’ve observed the petty charges being lobbed against these women. It’s not just believing what they say they’ve been charged with. It’s sitting in court in shackled hands and feet, and listening to the judge list the charges. Riverside County has been notorious for jailing people for the slightest of infractions. It is rumoured that each arrest results in a significant monetary gain for the police department. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but one thing I am absolutely certain of, is that many of these women were charged with such petty “crimes” such as jay walking, posession of drug paraphernalia (perhaps a bong or pipe), or riding an unregistered bicycle. Many more walked away without any charges at all. Yet they spent 72 hours or more- incarcerated in the brutal conditions I have listed.

If we ignore Riverside County’s criminal conduct and flagrant human rights violations, then we must understand that the next person arrested while walking the dog peacefully may be you. The next county that decides to capitalize on the smallest and pettiest of misdemeanors may be yours. These are not just anonymous women. These are your sisters and brothers, your mothers and fathers, your best friends. These men and women are you.

Once you realize just how close you are to being locked in a safety cell for 36 hours for no fathomable reason, only to be released without charges 72 hours later, (that is, if you are not booked on a Thursday or Friday- which means 5 days of incarceration- or on a long weekend, which could be 6 days or more) then you can begin to understand the depth of this problem. You might lose your job, custody of your children, your community reputation. All of these things are enough to scare any reasonable person into action.

But the most forceful and urgent reason of all is, you may lose your life.

It could be you sitting next to that unfortunate woman with full blown AIDS. Or it could be you bleeding in the bunk after being stabbed by one of the more violent prison inmates released into the county jail population. These concentration camps are overflowing. So just remember this:

If we don’t take action- YOU could be next. If you feel strongly about this story, PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION!

(Article by Susanna Gomez)

Posted in: Prison System

3 Comments on "Human Rights Violations in Local County Jails – Could You Be Next?"

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  1. Angel says:

    OR (dumb me!) you could just click on the link in the last line of the article… DUHHHH ON ME!!!!

  2. Nebulus_3eye says:

    I shared this and signed the petition. . Be the change you wish to see !!!!!!!!!!
    also check out Resistance Media Network on FB. . Know the Truth Wake up

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