LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As four more Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies pleaded not guilty to allegations of inmate abuse, a number of current inmates painted a different picture of life inside Los Angeles County Jail.
Six county jail inmates received their high school diplomas on Monday and 60 others graduated from a life skills class that’s part of a program set up by Sheriff Lee Baca to prepare them for life beyond the bars.
“You use the skills that you have picked up in the life skills class program to be the husband to your wives, to be the father to your children, to be the leader in the community that is so sorely needed right now,” graduate Steve Rogers said to his fellow graduates.
Throughout the ceremony, Baca could be seen fighting back tears.
“It is a very emotional reality to see men change their lives and become what they were when they left off from their educational pursuits, where they’ve dropped out of school, and now they know they’re back in, and they’ve got a goal, and it’s a good goal,” Baca said.
Eighteen members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — including deputies to lieutenants — were named in four indictments and one criminal complaint about alleged misconduct in county jails. The charges range from obstruction of justice to civil rights violations to unlawful assault.
During the graduation ceremony on Monday, however, inmates say they have seen no evidence of such abuse.
“The deputies here are very involved in our growth,” Rogers said. “They’re involved with us emotionally, they get to know us as people. [To them] we’re not just a number on a wristband.”
Other inmates say they’ve never heard of or witnessed any kind of abuse during their time behind bars, and that the deputies are committed to making sure the inmates don’t return to jail.
“I haven’t seen [abuse] since I’ve been down, since my time I’ve been down,” program graduate Dominic Lopez stated. “They’re caring and they have hearts, and they reach out to try to help us out, so we don’t have to come back in here no more.”