Maximum Security: All Access

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Today there are lots of pictures posted on this blog. I took the pics Thursday at the maximum security jail that serves Los Angeles County. Our video cameras showed much, but the pics posted show something different: the walls in one of the jails we visited. On the walls are some murals painted by inmates. The murals are colorful and very good. I have been in many prisons and jails over the years, but I have not seen murals painted by inmates. So click here to check out my photo essay.

By the way, the captain who walked us around the maximum security jail told me that exercise is very important in a prison or jail. I have heard people say that inmates get too much exercise (as though this is a gift) and want to take exercise away from inmates. The inmates get only three hours a week at this county detention facility. The captain told me that exercise is important to the people — inmates and deputies — at the facility. Exercise helps keep the environment safe. I suspect he would like to see the inmates get more time exercising, but it becomes a staffing issue. You need staff to move detainees and to watch to make sure there is no trouble.

In February there was a riot in the facility we visited. The riot resulted in many injuries and at least one death. Of course the captain was immediately called at home when the riot started, since the entire jail of more than 1000 detainees erupted in chaos. He rushed back to the facility, but here is one piece of information no one knows: this riot came at particularly bad time for the captain. (Of course there is not "good" time for a riot in a detention facility.) The riot occurred on a Saturday and the captain had just gotten home from picking up his beloved 12-year-old dog — a Golden Retriever — who had just had cancer surgery. Fortunately he had family members to attend to the sick dog while he raced back to work.

Here is something worth remembering as you watch our segments on these detainees: each is presumed innocent and many are innocent. The inmates in the facility where we took our cameras are inmates who have not yet had trials. This is not a prison where inmates have had trials and proven guilty — these are people arrested and accused. Most have bonds set, but can't pay the bond and so will remain in that facility until trial. So when you watch our segments — and in evaluating their treatment — remember that these people, while many charged with very, very serious crimes, have not yet been proven guilty. Statistically some are innocent and of course, some are guilty.

Here is a rather disturbing observation I had: There are about 3000 inmates pre-trial in this facility. During the several hours I was there, I did not see one lawyer visiting a client, or approaching or leaving the facility. You can't prepare a case or advise a client etc., if you don't see your client. You need to talk to your client about the charges and what happened and what will happen at trial. Each is entitled to a lawyer and also an "effective" lawyer. The U.S. Constitution demands it. Where were the defense lawyers? The facility is about an hour outside L.A., but that is no excuse not to see a client. I would love to know why I did not see one criminal defense lawyer coming or going. They could not all be in trial....

There were several inmates who said to the commander in my presence things like: "Could you check my record, I was supposed to be released May 4," etc. I have no idea if this is true or not — but a lawyer should be addressing these matters. From time to time in detention facilities people are held when they should have been released. No one should be held wrongfully. The commander was very nice to those who said they were held beyond time they should have been and directed someone in my presence to check the jail records to see if there had been a mistake. But, these detainees' lawyers should be working on this. Where were the criminal defense lawyers?

The staff at the detention facility was gracious to us and gave us full access to the facility. I would have liked to spend time talking to detainees about the facility. While I am sure they would complain — since no one likes jail — I would have liked to talk to them to try and get a feel for the place from still another viewpoint.

Now for some of your e-mails:

E-mail No. 1 — In Thursday's blog I invited you to guess why I have been in L.A.:

Here is my guess why you are in Los Angeles: to visit where Scott Peterson is staying. Or else, to try out to be a Laker girl?

ANSWER: Scott Peterson is at San Quentin— that is in northern California. As for the Laker girl idea: I take the Fifth.

E-mail No. 2

Dear Greta,
Okay, I like guessing games, especially since you're out here in the L.A. area. Somewhere I've never been and don't want to go except as a "guest?" Is it the L.A. County Jail?
Julia Smith Grossman
Santa Monica, CA

E-mail No. 3

Hi Greta,
A friend of mine said that: many people in CA have reported sighting of small flying saucers coming out of larger ships from the ocean and flying into the air. She thought it was between Catalina and CA coastline — thought she said Malibu. Have you heard about this?
Love you!

E-mail No. 4

In watching coverage of the Tiffany Souers case I am astounded by all the people saying they leave their doors unlocked because they feel safe and that violent crime rarely occurs in their area. In this day and age no matter where you live all doors and windows should be locked at all times. No one is safe or off limits in the society we live in today. I am so anal about locking everything down that I lock my boyfriend out all the time and then I hear pounding on the door and wonder who the heck is that? He chides me because I always ask him if he locked the upstairs windows. He says no one is going to get up there. I tell him people are sick these days and if they want to enter a residence through the second story they will find a way.
Also, I enjoyed your segment on the L.A. jail last night. I had guessed the morgue and my second guess was going to be a jail.
Clarissa Lockett
Houston, TX

E-mail No. 5

Superb piece. Prison sounds great. Good food and cleanliness. Sounds like a good retirement option, except the class and racial warfare. I'll rob a bank and send you the lock box key as I go to retirement in prison luxury! Just kidding. (I'd send the key to another good friend!)

E-mail No. 6

I got home from working, looked at your blog and sent my answer off about 20 minutes before your show started here in the West. I think I had jail on my mind because of my very recent highly unpleasant jury duty stint involving a member of the Crips gang.
Quite honestly, I hope I never have to serve again, and I will do just about anything to get out of it — except for going to the L.A. County Jail, of course. The prosecutor was professional and did an excellent job, in my opinion. The defense attorney acted like a low-class jerk, talking down to the jury and actually tossing the evidence (ammo, cell phone, a scale for weighing out cocaine) onto the prosecutor's papers, practically in her face. Rude and stupid.
We were not impressed by that demonstration. It actually startled us, but the prosecutor didn't flinch. Maybe she has had this experience before. Needless to say, the defense's ridiculous drama did not have any bearing on our verdict, but there are better ways to get attention and make an impact during a closing argument. I'm sure you never behaved so badly in court!
We also had a nut case on our panel who liked being there a bit too much. She was asking for numerous readbacks, wasting time, and then finally let it out that she was having fantasies about the judge. Jeez!
I hope you enjoy your stay in L.A. Even though you're here to work, you've got to eat. If it's not too inconvenient, you should try to treat yourself to my favorite Indian restaurant: Bombay Cafe. It's on Pico just barely east of Bundy — west of the 405 Freeway.
Santa Monica, CA

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