Letters to the Editor: I was shocked by L.A. County jails 15 years ago. Sadly, not much has changed

Men's Central Jail
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies move inmates through the custody line area at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I commend The Times for bringing awareness to the inhumane conditions at Los Angeles County’s jail system inmate reception center in downtown L.A.

I remember as a young public defender when they took us for a tour of the facility to help us better understand what our clients were going through. The first thing the guard told us was, “Don’t touch the walls.”

I was shocked at the horrid environment I witnessed. It was like going through a dark and depressive dungeon. I won’t even go into the unbearable smell. Fifteen years later, it appears not much has changed.


It’s true that the jail wasn’t designed to be, nor should it be a replacement for, a mental health institution. That’s for a separate discussion. But that is still no excuse for our local government to allow human beings to be subjected to such an unconscionable environment.

Hopefully your coverage will result in action.

Lou Shapiro, Los Angeles


To the editor: The American Diabetes Assn. is deeply troubled by the report of “barbaric” conditions in the L.A. County jail system, including reports that an individual with diabetes received no insulin for 36 hours. Those in charge of the jail have a responsibility to provide the medical standard of care for people with diabetes.

Diabetes management is a constant, challenging task for anyone; it involves everything from monitoring blood sugar levels and carbohydrate intake, to the administration of insulin or other medications in the right quantity and at the right time.

Without access to basic tools and care, people with diabetes are at grave risk of acute, life-threatening hyper- and hypoglycemia (high and low blood sugar), as well as serious complications like heart failure, vision loss, renal failure and limb amputation.

Denying insulin to a person with diabetes for 36 hours is unacceptable in any jail system.

Jennifer Sherman, Haddonfield, N.J.


The writer is a legal advocacy fellow at the American Diabetes Assn.