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Via E-Mail

The Honorable Members of the Board of Supervisors


County of Los Angeles
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Dear Honorable Members of the Board:
I am writing in support of the implementation of Civilian Oversight of the Sheriffs
Department. Based on my work as an MSW intern in the jails and on what I observed
there, as well as the difficulty I faced in my efforts to blow the whistle on the conditions I
observed, I believe investing in a Civilian Review Board is essential.
As a social work intern at Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) - the female
county jail in Lynwood, I experienced first-hand how the fundamental rights of mentally
ill inmates at CRDF are violated regularly through abuse and/or neglect of these women
by mental health, medical, and sheriff employees. On May 6th, 2014, I presented a letter
to the Board of Supervisors, informing board members of the conditions found within
CRDF. Before doing so, I communicated my concerns through the relevant chains of
command within CRDF. This included speaking with Department of Mental Health
(DMH) Jail Mental Health Services Program Head, Laura Bastianelli, as well as
meeting privately with Los Angeles County Sheriff Department (LASD) personnel,
Captain Joseph Nunez and Operations Lieutenant Kelly Adler. After these exchanges it
became clear to me that they were unwilling or unable to address the issues I raised.
This was a sobering experience since I was horrified by my observations and by those
providing mental health and custody services at CRDF, and I sensed that speaking with
them might compromise my safety and my internship placement within the jail, as well as
the safety of my clients. The decision to speak out was further complicated in that I had
been warned that publicly reporting the observed abuse and humiliation might seriously
hurt me, my career, my clearance in the jail, any future placements for MSW interns in
the jails, and would leave me responsible for any sheriff retaliation against jail inmates as
a result of my disclosures. I had also been told that I was even risking my MSW degree.
Although I seriously considered those points, I felt strongly that none of them could or
should outweigh my obligations to try to prevent future abuse, mistreatment, and
humiliation of my clients and other similarly situated women in the jails.
This was especially so as I witnessed absolutely no avenue for inmates to complain about
the conditions themselves. Being denied requests to use the phone, or to call the ACLU,
not being let out of their cells, retaliated by custody staff when requesting complaint
forms, and being ignored by their jail mental health clinician when admitting custody
abuse, these women are not heard.
After speaking out, both within the ranks of CRDF, and to the BOS, I faced additional
obstacles. Here, I received critical feedback from top officials at DMH, critiquing my
advocacy approach, and accusing me of an ethical failure to report my concerns much
sooner. Further, it was stated that a communication to the top of the relevant chain of

command prior to a political or media intervention would have been a more effective
change strategy. Unfortunately, this not only presupposes that one feels safe speaking to
such officials, but directly neglects that I in fact did discuss my concerns with both LASD
and DMH personnel, all of whom seemed unable or unwilling to implement any of the
solutions I suggested. In the end, I was notified that DMH would review the mental
health services at CDRF and that Asst. Sheriff McDonald would do the same for custody
services. Unfortunately, given the involvement of both DMH and LASD in the abuse and
neglect of the women inside CRDF, an investigation headed by their own personnel will
most likely lack teeth and be ineffective.
It is for these reasons that I believe that the implementation a Civilian Review Board with
independent investigative power is essential. One key component of this body would be
the ability to conduct private, anonymous, and confidential interviews with any prisoner
or employee, as well as provide a 24-hotline for LASD/ jail staff misconduct. Without an
external investigative body with this function, inmates and jail staff alike are forced to
communicate concerns to the perpetrators themselves. This is neither safe nor effective.
Without full security granted to those courageous individuals who risk so much in
speaking out, key players with intimate knowledge of what goes on inside the county
jails, including the inmates themselves, will remain quiet.
Additionally, having my observationsladen with both risk and public criticism
culminate in an ineffective investigation headed by the perpetrators themselves,
demonstrates an additional deterrent to those wishing to speak out. This spells a clear
need for an external investigative body, with subpoena power, and the need for the Office
of Inspector General (OIG) to follow up on complaints and to make sure LASD properly
investigates them. Further, this investigative body must have complete access to the jail
with the ability to inspect any part of the jail, without notice, at anytime. The OIG must
also have access to all relevant files, discipline reports, and use of force reports. The
problem previous jail monitors faced was the fact that they needed an escort, and that
custody staff was informed of their arrival ahead of time, often preventing their access to
records.
This is precisely the problem that I ran into when speaking with Captain Joseph Nunez.
Captain Nunez informed me that he performs what he calls Town Halls Meetings, in
which he goes around and speaks cell-front with the inmates, and has their concerns
documented by a custody staff following him during his rounds. Unfortunately, he failed
to recognize the inherent problem with custody staff documenting reports on other
custody staff. It was also brought to my attention by DMH personnel that custody staff
would radio in when Captain Nunez was coming to the modules. Having custody staff
prepare before an on-site visit is ineffective. The CRB and OIG must have full access to
the jail, free of restriction, and without notice.
In conclusion, I urge the Board to consider the DOJs recent findings, and the
longstanding pattern of jail abuses, when considering the need for oversight. Without this
type of oversight, inmates will continue to suffer, and jail staff will remain quite.
Thank you kindly for considering my remarks.

Sincerely,
Kristina Ronnquist, MSW