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Sun Sep 30, 2012, 10:21 AM

Busting Baca on the jails

The report issued Friday by the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence, which lambastes Sheriff Lee Baca's management of the county jails and suggests that he probably would have been fired for incompetence had he been working in the private sector, should come as a surprise to no one. In recent months, the public has been barraged by reports describing violence against inmates, gang-like cliques of deputies, lack of meaningful oversight and an institutional culture of arrogance and impunity.

The report includes 63 recommendations that could serve Baca as a blueprint to help overhaul the nation's largest jail system. But they are, in the end, just that recommendations. Baca is an elected official, not subject to the authority of the commission or the Board of Supervisors or anyone except the voters when his term comes up in 2014.

Some of the recommendations provide practical and immediate solutions, such as appointing an experienced corrections expert to run the jails, establishing harsher penalties for dishonesty or misconduct, and creating separate patrol and custody career tracks for deputies. Indeed, those seem like things that any effective manager would have done long ago. But as the report notes, Baca was detached and disengaged for years, even as the problems mounted.


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