One mentally ill inmate was handcuffed to a chair for 32 hours and given only one glass of water and no food. Another was restrained completely naked in full view of visitors.
Incidents like these reveal that Los Angeles county jails have a pattern of improperly restraining inmates, according to a report released this weekend by the county inspector general. Unruly or violent inmates are regularly tethered to chairs or tables in the nation's largest county jail system, according to the investigation, which was first reported by the L.A. Times.
Max Huntsman, the inspector general, told the Times that he had already found four incidents where corrections officers did not follow procedure. Handcuffed inmates are supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes and given bathroom breaks and meals if held for long periods of time.
The inmate who was restrained for 32 hours was given one glass of water and "medical attention" but no food. The episode happened on June 19 after he headbutted a deputy at the Los Angeles County Jail, giving her a concussion. Following the incident, which came to light last week, ten employees were relieved of their duty and others were reassigned, the Times reported. The FBI is currently investigating and could file criminal charges.
Inmates are often tethered while they're waiting to be assigned to permanent housing, so county officials are working to speed up that process.
"We're looking at the system to see how did this possibly occur," Sheriff Jim McDonnell told the Times. "When someone is acting out on their illness, we have to restrain them so they don't hurt themselves or someone else. The challenge is to do that as humanely as possible."
The L.A. County jails have a history of violence and mistreating inmates. A former sheriff deputy testified last year that guards regularly beat or taser inmates and then cover it up. Three deputies were convicted last month of brutally beating a visitor to the jail.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.