Outgoing OC Sheriff Hutchens Counters Claims In ACLU Report

SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Did an ACLU report released Tuesday alleging abuse in Orange County jails influence Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ decision to retire?

Hutchens held a press conference Wednesday at Sheriff’s headquarters in Santa Ana to talk about her decision not to seek another term. She insisted her announcement has nothing to do with the ACLU report.

“You don’t wake up one morning and say you are not going to run,” said Hutchens. “There is a process and planning.”

Hutchens said she made her decision months ago.

When she took over nearly ten years ago, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department was rocked by scandal. Now, amid allegations the Department misused jail informants and the escape of three inmates last years, the 62-year-old said she’s not retiring, just not running again.

The announcement came the same day a 104-page report was released by the ACLU, detailing what it calls troubling conditions inside the county’s jails.

“Things inside OC jails are horrible. We are talking about abuse, lack of medical and mental health and complaints ignored for years,” said Esther Lim, director of jails for the ACLU. Lim headed up the two-year-long probe.

“Sheriff Hutchens is basically surrounded by so much scandal. That’s why we called for her resignation. We have the informant scandal, the jail escape. She just ignores or denies it,” said Lim.

Hutchens methodically refuted the claims made in the report and pointed to the small sample.

“The more than 120 individuals surveyed by the ACLU, they represent .0003 percent of total bookings,” said Hutchens.

She highlighted that inmates have 24-7 access to health care and that the jails are not overcrowded and in fact are under capacity.

Hutchens said after more than 40 years in law enforcement her work here is done.

“I’ve accomplished what I want to accomplish,” she said. “No sheriff should stay too long.”

She still has another year at the helm. Her term isn’t up until June 2018. But she said she is already supporting Undersheriff Don Barnes to take her place.

 

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