tv This Is Life With Lisa Ling CNN September 25, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
>> just listen! don't get angry! i will come back when you're calm. >> this is a typical day for deputy medina. she works at the largest mental health institution in the united states. and all of her patients are inmates. >> have you been threatened? >> it's literally every day. >> no one wants a jail in their back yard. but the biggest one in the country happens to be in mine. >> all of the issues would be looked upon by anybody as staggering. >> the los angeles county jail is ground zero for the nation's toughest custody challenges. run down and overcrowded
facilities, the sky high number of gangs. >> this is the gang capital of the united states if not the world. >> and exploding mental health population. >> we are the de facto mental health system. >> since a scandal brought it under fire -- >> there are members of the sheriffs member who believe they are above the law. >> they allow a crew unprecedented access. hour ours. >> is your in danger? >> yes. >> i love you. >> it's heart wrenching to hear the stories. >> i am headed behind bars to discover what it takes to overhaul and run the country's largest jail system. >> you can feel the tension and it can be bad.
>> every day as dusk turns into night, bus after bus turns into a non-distribudescript downtown to unload inmates. we have been given access in my hometown of los angeles. over the next ten days, we will try to understand how this massive system operates. o.j. simpson, robert downey jr., and serial killers like charles
manson have chain walked through these doors. whether you are a vip offender or petty thief, you enter the custody system the same way. through the inmate reception center or irc. >> are you ready? >> it's 6:00 p.m. and the deputy's shift is just getting started. >> bend over and touch your toes, peel off your socks and peel them off slowly. three, two, one. place your hands down and do not touch the glass. >> they will search about 400 incoming inmates for drugs or weapons. >> spread your feet for me. >> a lot of them have been through this and they know what's up. others, it's the first time they have seen the inside of a jail and it can be overwhelming for them. they are the first people they will see on the worst dave their
lives. >> the irc had over 100,000 bookings, more than any other jail in the nation. with arriving inmates comes piles of paperwork. and rows and rows of personal belongings to store. each bag represents one of nearly 20,000 inmates. upon arrival, it can take up to 16 hours to process a single arrestee. the first stop, the tank. >> given how tight it is in there, does stuff often go down in the tank? >> they are observing where are you from and once this starts happening, that's when you get into the mentality and have riots. that's why we want to get them out. before the connections start happening. we are concerned about the safety of the jail system. >> everybody get up and find a wall and form a single file line. >> safety is a top priority, but
how do you achieve it in a jail? the system went off the rails and ignited a media firestorm. >> several deputies with the los angeles sheriffs department were just arrested. >> they took place in unjustified beatings. unjustified detentions and a plan to cover it all up. >> a report revealed shocking stories of brutality. officers had formed their own gangs and assaulted inmates. >> they are just one of several cliquish tattooed gangs. >> they were pepper spray and framed by the deputies who claimed he had beaten them. >> the fbi got involve and 21 members of the sheriffs department have been convicted of inmate abuse. or for covering it up. they confirm the corruption ran all the way to the top. >> the former l.a. county
sheriff convicted of corruption in the same case that ended the career of sheriff lee baca. >> in the wake of the scandal, the system needed a major overhaul and the assistant sheriff was the one appointed to the job. >> at the height of the controversy, what would you say went wrong? >> it's a high stress environment. sometimes it's who you hire. often times it it's really a lack of that frontline supervision. when you see an employee starting to lose their patience, you are not disrupting that. i don't think we trained people as well as we could have or should have. >> what changes have been implemented in response to the allegations of inmate abuse? >> increased supervisors and helping the staff with these complicated issues. >> mundamentally we made it clear we are not going to tolerate prisoner abuse. violence is unacceptable by any person. >> they want a new story to be
told that puts a scandal in the past and the jail's enormous challenges in the spotlight. like managing seven separate facilities across 4,000 square miles. and then there is the crumbling infrastructure. built in 1963, men's central jail is the oldest building and most run down. deputies must rely on an outdated system of levers and pulleys to open and close cells. keys date back to the same manufacturer as alcatraz. the most violent offenders are housed on antiquated tiers. >> watch the right if we could. this is high security inmates. it's open bar and nowhere in america do you see open bar maximum security. that's what this is. you will see i will disappear
from your view. so if i wanted to assault you, surprise you, scare you, all i have to do is height behind that barrier. the inmates were bent on assaulting one of us, they can do that and we are not protected from that experience. >> what are projectiles typically come out? >> they can grap a cup and urinate or defecate and throw it at you. >> it's called gassing. a dangerous and infectious form of sought that has become common. >> i am imagining what it's like to work here every day. imagine being the deputy. that's water on the floor. imagine the stress and strain they go to. that is often lost. >> it's hard to concentrate. >> yeah. >> let's get off the tier.
>> they lobbied the county to replace this building with a new and improved facility, but given the scale and cost, it's a good to ten years out. in the meantime, hundreds enter the system every day. if convicted, they are sent to prison or serve time here in l.a. county. when they arrive, placement is critical. >> come to 35. cell one. >> there over give classifications here at this jail. >> each has to go up to the window and talk to someone who ask them a series of questions. the answers will determine where the inmate will be housed. >> did you ever escape from any jail facility, halfway house or work release. you gay? >> no. you in a gang? >> yes. >> how vital is it to correctly
classify the inmates? >> it's a matter of life or death. whether they are mentally ill or part of the population like the lgbt. this could have serious consequences. >> why is that inmate apart from the other guys. >> there is a need to segregate. maybe they are a witness to a crime or belong to a gang or a dropout. for those cases, we will separate them for their safety. >> proprotect his identity. we will tall him inmate x. he has been in and out of jail a dozen times. >> what did you disclose? is this the first time you have been separated from everyone else? >> yes. >> inmate x said he was a skin head for 15 years and when he left the gang, some of the members assaulted and almost
killed him. now in jail for an unrelated charge, he fears another attack called a green light. >> when you have a green light, does it mean you will be attacked if the gang members see you here? >> yes. >> is that what you had to do in the gang? >> yes. >> what would happen? >> you would get it on your. >> are you in fear for your life? >> absolutely. >> inmate x has good reason to be worried. behind this system there is more than just the sheriff's department rules at play. >> who controls the jail? >> the biggest issue is the gangs. gain ♪ [ rear alert sounds ] [ music stops ] ♪ just can't wait to get on the road again ♪ [ front assist sounds ] [ music stops ] [ girl laughs ] ♪ on the road again ♪ like a band of gypsies we go down the highway ♪ [ beetle horn honks ] no matter which passat you choose,
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more gangs operate in los angeles than anywhere else in the country. on any given day, the department estimates as many as 10,000 gang affiliates are locked up in the l.a. county jail. more than half its population. over a quarter of incoming inmates are gang targets like inmate x, the former skin head. deputy haley and an officer with the gang task forces vetting his story. >> you are requesting protective custody. >> i was assaulted five months ago housed in this assault.
>> what are would cause that. >> i didn't want to follow the orders. >> what was one of the orders they told you? you press changes? >> do you have questions of me? >> can i get out of here? >> if he told me you are telling the truth, you will be good. if there is not room or can't make cells. turn around. >> gang ordered attacks are more likely to happen in general population where more than 100 men can bunk in a single dorm. they will have to keep inmate x with others also waiting for protective custody. >> do you think any other jail in the country deals with the kind of gang issues that l.a. does? >> this is the gang capital of the united states if not the world from hispanics to blacks to whis and almost everybody is
a gang associate. >> behind bars they organize into networks according to race. deputies are on alert in case the factions start trouble. >> in case they want to fight, do you fight them? >> it depends on what that person is doing at the time to the force option we will use. >> tazer, tazer. >> this is a 90 mile an hour fast ball. if there is a riot and they are stabbing one another, we will deploy this. >> several riots have broken out, fuelled by racial tensions. >> inmate on inmate fighting left dozens injured and some killed. >> we will use it for a large dorm. you deploy it into the dorm and inmates go straight to the ground. >> with a ratio of approximately
one deputy to 27 inmates and thousands of gang affiliates, they make it impossible to shut down all gang activity. the jail employs other tactics to stay a step ahead. >> this afternoon the sergeant and her team prepare for action. >> i assigned montoya with the tazer. ready? >> it's cell search day. every week without warning they remove inmates from their cells and search their bunks. they are on the look out for contraband from drugs to homemade weapons called shanks. >> they pull the metal off and even for that. >> how often do you find contraband? >> every day. >> inmates could lose privileges like visitation or get charged
additional time. >> it's thorough on the ceilings. >> toilet paper gets repurposed for gang communication. >> i want to show you this. they want to pass something to someone. stuff it in here. it's a form called a kip. >> this is a popular wi to pass drugs too. >> it's all from a t-shirt. >> whenever deputies are off the tier, they come out. it revolves around money and
markets. >> can you give me a sense of what the gang rules are? >> every aspect of your is dictated to you. what time you wake up and how you interact with the other races and how you interact with staff. the misconception is once you come to jail that you are no longer able to influence others. that is incorrect. >> one of l.a.'s most infamous happens to be in the county jail. his real name is johnson, but he is known as big evil. >> big evil? >> big evil. >> what did you do to earn it? >> can't say. statute of limitations ran out on that. >> he was the leader of the bloods gang. police linked him to 20 murders
and called him the most on cold-blooded killer in the city. >> do you have the authority to order hits? >> if i wanted to, yes. there is a lot of people that just don't know the rules. they come to a place like this and think that and they want to run around and it's not like that. for instance, one person can steal something from another and say the hispanics that brings confidence between two races. it will be up to us to take care of that person. he shouldn't be stealing. sometimes it takes physical force to make sure the rules are enforced and that can get you life now. >> can you tell me how severe the race issues are? >> there a lot of people who use
that. we call it politics. if i want to cause a problem, the most simplest way is to bring up race. it's like a red button for the president. you have world war three. >> world war three is exactly what the sheriffs department wants to prevent. in this era of reform, they have to find new ways to discipline that don't involve force. to prevent fighting, the jail isolates more high security inmates and rarely leave their cells. except for showers and if they qualify for classes. even meals are delivered to them. now to help curb violence, the task forces trying a new approach with inmates like big evil. those who play nice get time to socialize. >> who are the guys in here? >> the upper level and pinnacle
of the hispanic and white and black gangs. >> you are talking about different gangs in one room together? >> yes. >> what's the rational? >> hopefully problem solving skills instead of just he disrespected me and they are going to fight. if they have an issue, they will try to talk it out. it's huge for them. >> socializing is a privilege that gives the deputies leverage. they can strip it away at the first sign of misbehavior. >> behind the glass, there is heavily armed deputies watching this room. >> yes. >> why is that? >> it's human nature for people to fight. we will do our best to prevent it, but we can't prevent all violence. own a brewery.g i had o you might have heard its name...
>> they all have to undergo a screening before they can be housed. inmate who is require immediate attention are sent to triage. >> there is an inmate who has been screaming for the last couple of hours. the jail has tacalled the paramedics to take him to the county hospital. >> a lot of times they come in with a group or the drugs wear off or something happens. they just lose it. they showed up like that and we would get him to the clinic. >> why are they wearing this? >> you can't twist it. it's a design to prevent them from using it from hanging them.
15 inmates took their own lives, a surprising number for any jail. they called the mental health conditions deplorable and unconstitutional. the jail has since conceded to federal oversight and reforms. such as checking on high risk inmates and increasing the deputi deputies. >> in addition being the biggest jail, this is the biggest institution in the countries. they will go around and try to assess inmates's mental health to provide them what they need. >> you are trying to get on psych meds? okay. >> some don't reveal their diagnosis during intake or develop symptoms behind bars. it's a struggle to identify treatment.
>> when you first came in, did they ask you if you had a history of mental health? >> i messed up. >> you said no to all those questions? >> it's obvious. i mead the medication. i hear the voices and it gives me migraines. i just asked both of them. >> 15 years ago, there were three trained deputies for nearly 20,000 inmates. today there are 25. >> it is still not enough. >> what are we talking about? in terms of the size of the mentally ill population. >> the reality is it's just a little greater than 18,000.
4500 or so are diagnosed with a mental illness and are being treated by the staff. if you can name a town or a city where nearly a quarter of the population is suffering for mental illness, that would generate interest. >> let me ask you this. how do you explain your time here? >> i have been watching them pace back and forth. >> the population has nearly doubled and continued to rice. many of the state run facilities have shuttered leaving the jail to be a hospital of last resort for an exploding population. >> do you have family members here? >> no. >> nobody? >> okay. i'm going to have a psychiatrist come see you. >> should all these people with mental illness be in a jail? >> absolutely not. it's not the right place. they should be in a facility that is designed to help them. we don't have that facility in
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at the l.a. county jail, inmates with the most revere disorders, they are sent to twin towers. >> wherever you want to sit. there is not another person. >> twin towers was built to house maximum security inimates, but now it is filled entirely with mentally ill inmates and most of these have severe conditions. we have a lot of restrictions placed on us. we can't take our cameras out because cameras set them off. with nearly 4,000 patients, the jail has become america's largest mental health institution. >> and then the left hand? >> they have an operating budget of $800 million. the costs are astounding. the department spends about $70,000 a year per inmate and nearly two million on
psychiatric medications. the skpal complexity was not what medina expected when she signed up to work here. >> have you felt threatened? >> on a daily basis. i was spit on last monday. it's part of the job unfortunately. >> that's why they are inside the pods. >> what's the matter? i'm wondering why you are kicking the door. are you hungry? >> yes! >> if i bring you food, will you calm down. >> yes! >> that's all you had to say. >> an eight-year veteran, medina learned to stay vigilant. >> mentally ill or unpredictable. you are walking on eggshells. >> there is two milks and two cereals.
i don't have lunch yet. >> do you feel fear? >> every once in a while. i love what i do. is people are hurting inside. most of them who are on the high floors are homeless and a lot of these guys are bipolar and manic depressive and schizophrenic. >> as the population size grown, so too has the secret me in. they revealed 30% involved inmates with mental illness. to improve conditions, last year they initiated a training program that puts emphasis on communication over force.
>> is something in your head that is telling you to do something wrong, don't do it. you can't swing at people. >> you will have a lot of angry people. people yelling and kicking all day. as police officers, we are trained to deescalate and control the situation. going hands on with someone and ending up in a fight that is using your words and finding out why he is angry. why he is kicking and smearing feces. it's just speaking to them. >> did you have a nice day outside? i will remember that. thanks. >> i truly believe that with the mentally ill, they want to be heard. the image of inmates chained to
tables is going to live with me for a while. it was a disturbing thing to see. but this is not a mental health institution. it's a jail. the people who work here are doing the best they can to take care of a population that is just growing. >> the sad fact is that 75% of inmates will return to the l.a. county jail. big changes are under foot to keep another group from coming back. >> if i maybe encounter rehab, i might have had a better life. a better chance of staying out. the strikingly designed lexus nx turbo and hybrid. the suv that dares to go beyond utility. this is the pursuit of perfection. it's scary when the lights go out. people get anxious and my office gets flooded with calls.
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the jail's female detention facility is south of downtown l.a. >> what are the causes of domestic violence? >> sarah, you want to tell us about yours? >> a lot of unhealthy relationships based on substance abuse? >> what occurred? >> they are serving sentences ranging from drug crime to burglary. for all of them it's the first
therapy program behind bars. >> my addictions and everything i have gone through, it starts from a young age of when my mom passed away. lack of having my mother and being around gang members let me to the lifestyle. >> counseling sessions are a new effort to keep inmates from coming back. >> how many times have you been incarcerated? >> about nine times. >> 18. >> 18 times? >> from the beginning to now is about 20 times. i have been in prison three times. >> i have six prison terms and like 13 or 14 booking numbers in l.a. county alone. >> why have you kept coming back. >> when you go home, the first people who greet you are the people who you partied with before you left. it sucks you back in? >> i choose to keep coming back to jail, but this is the last
time. level the last time. >> how do you know this is different some. >> i have never done a program and out of 16 years of being in jail, i feel so much better after this 14 months that i'm doing right here. it's an awakening for me. >> we made a choice to participate and try to change our life. >> just a few years ago, therapy-based programming didn't exist. inmates were here for too short of a time. the average stay was 54 days. then in an effort to reduce overcrowding and state prisons, california started sending inmates with multiyear sentences to the county jails. >> what we were getting is inmates that do two, three, four years of hard time. that's a long time in the county jail. we were not designed for that. that's when we started developing these programs.
>> the deep tputy takes me to w the women are housed. it provides both educational and therapeutic classes. it feels like a different world. >> i'm shocked by how different this women's facility is. why the more humane treatment of females than for males? >> there often programs for the males, but the males have a very proud type of an attitude they bring from the streets. it's like we are not allowed to do that. females don't align themselves up with gangs and i that are open with the idea of what i can do to better myself. i have the confidence and the knowledge to not get sucked back up. >> women are the fastest growing in the united states.
their numbers have have increased by more than 700%. in l.a. county it is estimated that 1400 inmates are mothers. these are two of the lucky ones. they are escorted through the complex by custody assistant. down many corridors to reach a special place. where they can see and hold their children. with only four hours a week to play together, it's straight to the board games. >> i want to play too. >> there is music and laughter, but also constant reminders that this is not your typical play time. >> what are the qualifications? >> no violent crimes and charges
and they must be enrolled in education-based incarceration. it's heart breaking to hear the stories. >> a lot of people believe once you commit a crime and get incarcerated, you should lose your rights. >> the mother didn't commit a heinous crime. this is her first offense. why not? it will save us from having the kids here. because they will have their mom. >> what color is that? >> 25-year-old ma ritza was charged with identity theft and has eight months left to serve. she has a nine-month-old, two young daughters and a 7-year-old boy. >> why would it be fun for mom to live with you. >> so she could cook too. >> what is your favorite thing that she cooks? >> quesadilla. >> in his seven years of life, how much have you been with him? >> about three years. not a lot.
he calls my mom mom and dad dad. >> how does that feel? >> it hurts. i just want to bond with him, you know? be still for a second! roseanne who is 27 is in for a drug charge and gave birth while in custody and now has a 5-month-old girl and a 7-year-old son. what's it been like to have mom away from you? >> sad. >> do you cry about it sometimes? >> no. i'm too sad to do that. >> you get too sad to cry? >> yeah. >> i wish that everybody would be able to get this opportunity.
it really is such a blessing. i don't feel like we are so much in jail anymore. i feel like myself. i feel like a mom. >> i love you. okay? >> with programs like this these women have a better chance of staying out of jail. but like most initiatives they cost money, require space and demand for staff. right now less than 1% of mothers can participate. >> bye, baby, i love you. >> bye, evan. >> the jail has no current plans to expand its therapy modules. >> our problem is we are running out of space. we were not designed to come up with these activities. we're trying. [ music stops ]] ♪ just can't wait to get on the road again ♪ [ front assist sounds ] [ music stops ] [ girl laughs ] ♪ on the road again
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as my time here comes to a close it is clear the l.a. county jail has under gone critical changes since the scandal. i'm surprised to hear one problem is worse. the number of assaults against staff jumped an astounding 150% in the past three years. it is a troubling trend for the head of men's central jail's commander. >> if the inmates are dissatisfied about something even as minor as not getting a
male on time they start gassing staff. >> in this process of trying to come up with reforms, do you feel like inmates are becoming more brazen? >> yeah, to some extent. this new generation of inmates just don't care about the consequences. deputies are afraid of being disciplined for getting into force. it is a much harder job and there is a lot of scrutiny on police right now. >> keeping violence down while reforming such a large and complex system requires real cultural change. so in addition to a variety of job training programs, the jail is trying a new approach at its low security facility. one that puts inmates and top brass at the same table for the first time. >> all right, gentlemen, let me get your attention. >> called inmate council it is a form of democracy behind bars and will soon be rolled out to
other facilities like men's central jail. >> we'd like to do spring training. we could have a powder bleach. >> these men were elected to raise collective concerns directly to lieutenants may hue and porier. >> we want to put it on the table about another microwave. >> anything else? >> there are people in the dorm doing schooling. they were wondering if they could quite possibly get an e-mail address? >> you're referring to college or job applications? >> yes. >> we need to put procedures and protocols in place. it's a great idea. we'll look into it. >> as inmates what does it feel like to have direct contact with upper management in the jail? >> way different. before, nobody hardly listened to us. >> we have things that you won't get anywhere else in the state of california. you would not get to sit across from a lieutenant and captain and make complaints about things you feel are going wrong and get results. >> when you first came to the
department did you ever think you would be doing anything like this with inmates? >> no, i didn't. the line of communication has been opened directly to us. makes you feel like we are making a difference now. it is part of the paradigm shift within l.a. county jail itself. >> do you think this council makes the environment safer? >> i believe it does. us t it's improving their behavior. they are holding each other accountable. it makes it safer for everybody. >> thank you for the dvd players and fixing our phones. we take into consideration that this is a give and take relationship. we are expected to keep ourselves at a higher respect level with staff. >> programs like inmate council demonstrate how far the jail has come since the scandal. the current sheriff jim mcdonnell knows the department still has a lot to prove. what do you want people to know about the largest jail system? the country? >> it's a tough place to work. it's not simple to be able to
balance the needs of employees for their safety with constitutionally taking care of the inmates in our care and custody. i believe the more people see the challenges we face the more likely they will want to help fix the challenges. currently we do what we can. we try to get them the best treatment we can. >> come on out. >> they are leaving our custody, going back predictably into the same cycle only to reoffend and come back again. >> while the department is taking big strides to improve conditions on the inside, unless change also happens on the outside, it will likely remain the largest jail system in the country. >> sign right here. all right. you can go in the turnstile for us. >> the reality is about half of those released from the l.a. county jail will return. as i watch men leave more quickly arrive to replace them. >> three, two, one. have your wristbands out.
your bar code facing up. >> and the jail's daily cycle and challenges continue. >> top tier mental health walking. if you need to sign up for mental health. well, that's life with lisa ling and this is it for hillary clinton and donald trump. this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. you are looking at hofstra university where in just hours hillary clinton and donald trump will go head to head for the first time ever the stakes could not be higher for the debate. 90 minutes that could change the race. the audience expected to be record-breaking, up to 100 million people could be watching. we are talking super bowl territory here. the candidates getting in their final debate prep today as the clock ticks down. meanwhile the race is about as close as it gets. clinton just squeaking past donald trump. three points in the latest cnn poll of polls. we'll discuss tha