Front page stories in both the LA Times and Register today report that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Orange County's jail system in the wake of recent brutality allegations. "Officials from the department's Civil Rights Division are seeking to determine whether incidents of violence by jail personnel amount to a pattern of violating inmates' rights, the Sheriff's Department confirmed," writes the Times' Tami Abdollah. "The Orange County district attorney criticized deputies earlier this year for a 'code of silence' that he said hampered prosecutors' ability to investigate possible criminal activities."
When dozens of inmates murdered an alleged child porn possessor named John Chamberlain in late 2006 after a deputy allegedly told them the inmate was a child molester, sheriff's personnel refused to allow DA investigators access to the crime scene, even though the DA is supposed to investigate all murders involving the sheriff's dept. The DA is now charging nine inmates with murdering Chamberlain, but ruled against filing charges against the deputy who allegedly outed Chamberlain as a pervert.
In response to the news of the Justice probe, the sheriff's department issued the following statement: "We've implemented many changes of our jail procedures and in our use of force policy since the Chamberlain grand jury transcripts and the District Attorney's findings on Chamberlain case were released last year. We continue to review our policies and implement changes to make our staff more accountable and our operations the best possible. We have worked with independent organizations including the ACLU and the Orange County Office of Independent Review and we welcome the DOJ's scrutiny of our operations. We are cooperating fully with their requests."
Good luck, Justice Department investigators! You have chosen an important mission and we fully expect you to get to the bottom of this mysterious pattern of behavior. Here, to get you started, is a link to every story we've run that mentions just one of the jails you're probing, Theo Lacy Men's Jail.
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