San Bernardino, CA
The initial reports were shocking and conjured memories of Iraqi prisoners tortured by American guards at Abu Ghraib—reports that riveted the world’s attention in 2004.
This time, however, the allegations of torture involved San Bernardino County Sheriff deputies, accused of perpetrating similar atrocities against inmates at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.
The deputies alleged abuse was worsened by the fact they also appeared to throw out the rule book about being “innocent until proven guilty,” evidenced by reports that indicated some of the abused inmates were still pending trial when the incidents occurred. Although other inmates involved had already been found guilty and were serving sentences, it should not have mattered—they were sentenced to time, not torture.
According to inmate complaints, for years, a group of deputies sought their own form of justice against them. Alleged torture endured by these inmates exceeded the boundaries of human decency—some had shotguns placed at their heads, some had their arms hand-cuffed over their heads for extended periods, some were tased even in their genitals, others complained they were sodomized, some were bombarded with pepper spray while locked in their cells, and loud music was blasted over the facility’s loud speakers at night which impeded their ability to sleep.
When the allegations of torture at the West Valley Detention Center became public in 2014, inmates at the facility filed five federal lawsuits and as many as seven deputies were fired.
Last week, however, a group of thirty-two current and former inmates involved in those suits were awarded more than $2.5 million for having endured ongoing abuse and torture while in custody. Under the terms of the settlement, the lawsuits were dismissed.
Despite the settlement, there continues to be an ongoing FBI investigation into whether the civil rights of these inmates were violated.
The Voice/Black Voice News will continue to follow this story.