At Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca's news conference on Tuesday, he confidently stated that despite 18 indictments of department people, and years of reports of beatings of inmates and abuse, his jails were the best-run, the safest in the country, and challenged us media types to go in and take a look for ourselves.
Thank you, very much; that's just what I did. I called up the sheriff's PR. people, who are generally very responsive even though they know their department isn't always portrayed in the media in the most flattering ways, and they arranged a visit to Twin Towers jail in Downtown L.A. About 4,000 people, half clinically diagnosed with mental health issues.
Built in ‘97. Huge. Now, I don't think I was born last night, and I'm hardly naive, so I understand that the facility was only going to show us the ''best '' of what they have to offer. But having said that, we really had zero restrictions on where we went and what we took pictures of, other than a request to not show inmates faces. We spent about two hours on the main ''general population'' floors, on the levels that deal with people with some mental illness, and on the locked down 35 bed psychiatric wing with people curled up in balls on their beds with only a hand visible poking out of a white robe. Enlightening, depressing, and encouraging in the sense that they acknowledged problems in the past, talked about reforms (video camera, more training, increased staffing) and said they welcomed the news coverage because the Sheriff wants the jails to be ''transparent'' (don't love that word but politicians do). So, if you get a chance, check out our story on FOX 11 at 5 and 10 or on the website.