ACLU says O.C. jails are “inhumane;” urges Sheriff Hutchens to step down – Orange County Register

Excessive violence, harsh treatment of mentally ill prisoners and unhealthy living conditions are so widespread in Orange County jails that they violate constitutional norms, according to a report issued Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The report, based on a two-year investigation by the ACLU that included interviews and reports from 120 recent O.C. inmates and others, also identified a pattern of “denial and indifference” among local jailers, prompting the organization to call for the resignation of Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“There is a trail of incompetence leading to a mountain of problems, as evidence by our report,” said Esther Lim, director of the ACLU’s Southern California Jails Project, during a meeting Tuesday with the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

“Despite years of recommendation, Sheriff Hutchens ignored and denied the problems that existed in the jails for years. No more. Sheriff Hutchens needs to resign now.”

“There is a culture of abuse and violence,” within the jails, Lim added.

Sheriff officials declined immediate comment Tuesday, saying they are studying the report. Previously, Hutchens has denied that O.C. jails violate constitutional norms and said deputies do not engage in excessive violence.

The ACLU report argues otherwise. Some of its allegations include:

• Excessive use of force by deputies against inmates.

• Deputies pitting inmates against each other to encourage violence.

• Ignoring inmate complaints, including instances of sexual abuse.

• Housing inmates in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

• Denying adequate health care.

The ACLU report noted that its findings are consistent with reports from other agencies that have criticized the Sheriff’s Dept. for the conditions and treatment within the county’s five jails.

In 2014, after six years of investigation in local jails, the Dept. of Justice wrote a letter that criticized the use of force, crowded…

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