Deputies at LA Men's Central Jail face 'disgusting' assaults by inmates

- Inside the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail, security video shows inmates about to attack unsuspecting deputies. The assault is called "gassing," when inmates toss urine, feces or semen at the deputies.

“If it gets in their face, their eyes, you don't know what kind of diseases the inmates have. It's very traumatic for the staff,” Kelly Harrington, the Assistant Sheriff of Custody Operations, said.

Harrington says gassing happens at least 250 times a year at the Men's Central jail.

“Gassing is probably one of the most disgusting things that can happen in a prison or jail environment,” Harrington said. “It's not like being spat upon.”

This facility is 54 years old, making it one of the oldest county jails in California.  Deputies say the way it was built endangers their lives.

“It's very antiquated, dated facility,” Men’s Central Jail Captain Joseph Dempsey said. “It allows the assaults on other inmates and assaults on the deputies.”

Captain Dempsey says deputies have to walk the halls every 30 minutes to check on inmates. Since the cells have open bars, deputies are easy targets.

A typical module at the Men's Central Jail is a linear configuration, meaning you have to walk down the rows to get any visual on the inmates inside the cells.

“They can't see what's inside the cell until they are right in front of it,” Dempsey said.

“Folsum, San Quentin, they have doors that are hardened so they don't have the opportunity to gas,” Harrington said. “That's one of the issues that we're combating too, just the physical design of the jail.”

The sheriff’s department hopes the Men’s Central Jail will be replaced with a new consolidated correctional treatment facility that will house both high security inmates and provide treatment for people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

In the meantime, deputies came up with different ideas on how to protect themselves, including a shield.

“We roll this (shield) down the row and deputies stand behind it as they push it down the row to protect our deputies,” Dempsey explained.

There are more than 4,000 inmates at the jail.  When they attack a deputy with gassing, they are placed in temporary housing.

“This is temporary housing. After an inmate would assault staff or other inmates, they’re placed in here for no more than 29 days for loss of privileges and they are eased back
into a row with open bars,” Dempsey said.

Still, some inmates do it again -- either out of anger or insanity. Deputies say constant training and extensive vigilance is the only way to avoid these disgusting assaults.

“It's just a very inhumane way to have to go through your day and it's a terrible experience for those staff members,” Harrington said.

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