Above the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., the following phrase is etched into the marble: "Equal Justice Under The Law." Nothing could be further from the truth; never have the American people been sold a bigger line of bullshit.
The reality is that "justice" is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Those with means may or may not intersect with it. Those without, well, they're just out of luck.
If you're ever stupid or unlucky enough to be arrested for an alleged crime in Los Angeles County, you'd better pray that you're flush with cash. For if you're not, not only can you kiss your Sixth Amendment right to a defense good-by, but, as you cannot afford bail, your new home for the foreseeable future will be a medieval sewer known as the Twin Towers Correctional Facility located downtown right beside human destinations the likes of Chinatown, Union Station and LACMA.
The summer of 2007 was not a red letter season for me. I did something stupid, idiotic even, but only illegal in California courtesy of the same moronic and corrupt legislators responsible for our now bankrupt state.
Pa pillion had nothing on me. When I was thrown headfirst into this modern-day Devil's Island, I was in reasonably good health, weighed 226 mostly-muscular pounds, and had 20/20 vision with contact lenses despite suffering from a debilitating eye disease. Upon eviction seven months later, I barely tipped the scale at 158, was blind and had cancer. Organizations the likes of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are wasting time and resources in Third World dictatorships as a good many of this planet's real atrocities lie right here in the good ol' U.S. of A. .
The Twin Towers Correctional Facility, 10-acres and 1.5 million square feet of Black Hole of Calcutta-like fun, is the World's Largest Jail. It is fact that convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons and our own Gitmo detainees are treated more humanely, have a far easier ride, than TTCF inmates. Fact!
In its infinite wisdom, the Los Angeles County Supervisors have entrusted the operation of this lovely landmark to its dullard Sheriff Lee Baca and his malignant minions. For all intent, it operates above the law, with policy based more on whim than national, state and county statute.
Although seemingly the creation of Franz Kafka's disturbing imagination, this nightmare is quite real, a puss-filled abscess in your very own back yard, ready to engulf you, too, if you should slip and cross the line. And believe me, it doesn't take much.
The kicker is that very few of the men incarcerated in this septic tank are guilty of anything. Their "crime" is not having enough money to post bail while awaiting mostly trumped-up charges courtesy of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office in its never-ending quest to inflate its conviction statistics. Hell, they even give their Deputy D.A.'s cash bonuses for every poor soul they manage to convict -- of anything! Granted, some people deserve to be in prison. God knows. But most face such inflated charges that it's next to impossible not to be convicted -- of something.
Especially when the defense of those without means falls to the obscenely misnamed Office of the Public Defender. I say this because P.D.'s rarely, if ever, defend anyone. Instead, they "make deals" with the better staffed, better paid and usually smarter D.A.'s. And because no defense is provided, those deals are routinely toxic for the accused. In essence, the State of California has created a whole industry for itself by incarcerating the poor and defenseless.
I was quite different from the run-of-the-mill brain dead or crackhead or gangbanger TTCF inmate. I was older than most, was a professional writer -- a member of the Writers' Guild of America -- had a master's degree and had worked as a college and university professor for 11 years. Most men are in this phlegm pot are functionally illiterate.
My biggest crime was to be between jobs and broke while attempting to support two teenage sons with my ex-wife. That, more than any other reason, is why I was the corrupt county's guest.
And it's the same for almost everyone in there. If they could afford bail, they'd be home awaiting trail, not being abused by Ayatollah Baca's deputies and policies.
One of the first things the bastards did to me upon arrival was to cut off my longtime anti-depressant, Marplan, and a drug given to me some 10 years before following a failed sleep study, Clonopin. And I mean they cut me off at the knees.
As any pharmacist or doctor worth a damn will tell you, if an individual is to discontinue use of these medications, one must be weaned off gradually, usually over 30 days. To do otherwise can induce stroke and/or heart attack. But the sadists employed as doctors in this snake pit (almost all from primitive countries where jumping over a stick is the equivalent of passing medical school, and whom are paid as close to minimum wage as the bastard Lee Baca can get away with) could have cared less. Some even laughed when I protested. As a result, I spent my first 12 days in a nearly comatose state. I even stopped breathing and passed out twice. But after quick EKG's (and I severely doubt the nurses doing the tests knew how to work the machine) I was quickly thrown right back into my cell.
They also refused to give me my prescribed diabetes medications. It took 80 days (I counted) and three ACLU complaints for me to get two-thirds of them. But then, that's the way the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department operates this place -- any way they want to.
Before I go on, I want to say something about this blog. Originally, I intended to write a book. But, as I am on probation (another outrage!), I was advised that if I did so, I would be in violation of that probation and imprisoned. So much for the First Amendment when one is forced to endure California's corrupt legal system with no more than a do-nothing public defender as representation.
TTCF is divided into two-tiered (just like the legal system) "pods". Hundreds of them. Although designed to accommodate about 30 men, most house a minimum of 50. Inside each are numerous cells the size of closets. Most of these house four men. You would not want to turn your back on many of those guys let alone fall asleep in their presence. A select few cells hold two men. And cells are for the lucky. The rest sleep on bunks crammed wherever they can cram them on each pod's first floor.
Men sleep on steel slabs. "Mattresses" are mats (think yoga mats) so old, so frayed and so thin that newspaper would provide more support. And, as they are used again and again, god knows what diseases they carry, especially in this place which is notorious for staph infection. At the time I was thrown into this septic tank, I had already undergone one hip replacement and total reconstruction of one knee. My orthopedic surgeon had advised me that I needed yet another hip replacement, a replacement for the aforementioned knee, and back surgery. Seven months of sleeping on steel and tissue paper has ensured that I never, ever have a pain-free moment.
Each cell has its own toilet/sink combo. But those who sleep in what is humorously called the day room must share one filthy bathroom with anyone and everyone. One of the few pleasures an inmate is afforded is to flush the toilets as many times as humanly possible to cost the county as much money as humanly possible.
Showers are yet another thrill-filled experience. Each pod has one on the second floor. Although inmates shower one at a time, they can get kind of crowded when used as a place to beat someone up (these beatings are often instigated by Baca's deputies (a good percentage of whom are juiced to the max on steroids), an almost daily occurrence. An always wet, festering, germ infused bed sheet hung over the entrance is the shower curtain. Disinfectant is provided sporadically to clean the showers. More often than not, each is filled with fungus and mold.
Which brings me to jail food. Know those cellophane-wrapped burritos sold at your local mini-mart? Inmates get one of those each week, definitely the culinary highlight. Breakfast is a tiny box of generic cereal. Lunch alternates between mystery meat bologna sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly. Most dinners consist of severely overcooked noodles topped with little pencil eraser shaped "meat" topped with a toxic paste-like sauce. Fresh fruit is a rarity; fresh vegetables non-existent. The food is so vile that guys who had been to prison wax poetic for penitentiary vittles.
And forget about flossing after a meal. Or ever. It's considered contraband. If you want a toothbrush (it's 4 inches long!) and toothpaste, you must purchase them with your own money (if you have any) from the jail commissary. Few do. Many never shower, either.
For all intent, the Twin Towers Correctional Facility is an obscene warehouse for human beings who are awaiting trial or prison.
A good many of the incarcerated are guilty of whatever it is they are alleged to have done. But the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office never leaves it at that. You see, D.A.'s specialize in layering on charge upon charge -- most having absolutely nothing to with the original charge -- so they can get a conviction, inflate their statistics and get their bonus.
In my own case, a despicable, psychopathic bleached blonde Armenian Deputy D.A. notorious among bailiffs and other lawyers for wearing tight outfits to accentuate her big tits, charged me with everything but orchestrating 9/11, killing J.F.K. and kidnapping the Lindbergh Baby. I call her Stalin's Daughter, the Prom Queen of the Gulag, as she practices law as if she were still in her native U.S.S.R. As most of those in the TTCF (myself included) cannot afford good private attorneys who could chew those county employees up and spit them out, they must rely on uncaring, unmotivated and often unskilled public defenders for their defense. As a result, a good number of those bogus charges stick.
As if this weren't bad enough, the actual act of dragging inmates to court puts them through a very wearing logistical hell.
While those charged with a crime who can afford bail can wake up in their own beds and make their way to court in a human and humane manner, those in jail face a very different path.
A bastard LACSD deputy will get on the omnipresent P.A. system at about 4:00 a.m. to scream the names of those who have to appear in one of the numerous Los Angeles County Municipal or Superior Courts that day. Please keep this in mind: the courts to not open until 9:00 a.m.
Men are forced to wait in the day room until guards deem it necessary to hustle them off to breakfast. Following the morning meal, the real fun begins.
The men are marched into the basement of the old County Jail to holding cells where they will sit for hours. These cells are segregated by race: white, black and Hispanic. They haven't figured out what to do with Asians yet, so their holding cell will be dictated by a deputy's whim.
These holding cells are akin to the "Star Wars" bar. They have a maximum capacity of 36. I was in many with over 75 men squeezed inside. For hours. Complaints reach deaf ears.
Finally at about 7:00 a.m. guards shout the names of the various courts. When yours is called, you are finally released from the dirty, smelly over-filled-to-capacity holding cell to be handcuffed to three other men (at least one of whom hasn't showered in weeks; at least one who won't stop screaming about Jesus) and thrown onto a bus.
When the bus finally arrives at your courthouse, you are ushered into yet another freezing cold, segregated holding cell in the basement. Then you are strip searched, then thrown back into the cell until you are called for your appearance.
Outside the courtroom, you are locked in another holding cell. Your attorney may or may not speak to you at that time.
So, by the time you are led in handcuffs into the courtroom, you stink from the holding cells, are wearing soiled jail clothes, and are exhausted (both mentally and physically) from all you were forced to endure just to get there. This makes a wonderful impression on juries. This also marks a vast difference from those who could afford bail. These people show up in court well-rested, freshly showered and usually in a suit and tie.
Following your five minutes in front of a judge, you are thrown back into the segregated holding cell (in the whites only cells I frequented the words "nigger" and "Jew" were thrown about in practically every sentence and I witnessed many white supremacists recruiting for their cause). Finally at about 5:00 p.m. (often later) your name is finally called for a bus back to TTCF.
At this point, the procedure is reversed, including the holding cell in the jail's basement.
Men are forced to endure yet another invasive strip search (the deputies go out of their way to make this as humiliating as possible) then have two burritos thrown at them before being escorted back to their pod. It is normally between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. (marking a 14 hour ordeal!) before finally returning to your cell.
I had to go through this hell 19 times -- for the most part, because the uncaring and inept public defender couldn't get it together for it to have been otherwise ...
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution proclaims that "In a criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to have the assistance of counsel for his defense." No mention is made about how much the accused can afford to pay a legitimate defense attorney.
Like everything else in Los Angeles County's criminal justice system, this definition is stretched to such absurd limits that the amendment is almost unrecognizable. When the Office of the Public Defender is factored in, 99.9% of the amendment's intended meaning is bleached away.
In jail, Public Defenders are referred to as "dump trucks". I was in contact with several thousand men during my seven months in paradise, almost all of whom were "represented" by P.D.'s. I found one --ONE-- who had a single good word to say about theirs.
In my particular case (and it was really no different than anyone else's) I was "represented" by a numbnuts who couldn't find his own ass with both hands, MapQuest and a searchlight. He came to the jail to talk to me on one occasion. But before 10 words could be exchanged, the bastard deputies proclaimed a lockdown; the weasel fled, never to return.
In an effort to give him the facts of my case, I wrote seven long, detailed letters to him. Although he insisted that he had read them all, when I questioned him as to their contents, he didn't have a clue. This was the first of many lies he spit into my face.
Despite telephone calls from my family to both him and his supervisor complaining that I was receiving no defense whatsoever, this bastard steadfastly refused to life a single finger in my defense. For example, he couldn't even tell me precisely what I was charged with or what evidence was held against me. I'd love to give out his name. But fear of "violating probation " keeps me from doing so.
As I knew I'd probably get the death penalty with this guy in my corner if I went to trial, I was forced to make an open plea to the judge, was charged with countless felonies for "crimes" that are no more than misdemeanors (if that) in 49 other states and others that were nothing more than figments of the bleached blonde bitch D.A.'s sick imagination, was forced to spend six months in a "mental facility", and serve three years probation. The biggest mistake I made was in not representing myself.
This guy couldn't even get me out of jail. My family finally hired a real lawyer to do that. But the damage had been done and I was forced to live with the fruits of the Public Defender's (lack of) labor. Upon discharge, the "mental facility" I was thrown into was a Skid Row shithole for crackheads scraped off the sidewalks even though I did not use drugs or drink. It was far worse than jail.
I was diagnosed with an eye disease, Keratoconus, when I was 21 years of age. By the time of my incarceration, I had undergone two cornea transplants in each eye, a trauma-related cataract surgery in my left. Although the vision in my left eye was 20/20 with a hard, gas-permeable contact lens, I had no vision in my right, the result of a cataract that was scheduled to be removed two weeks after my arrest.
Since 1977, the care of my eyes was entrusted to the brilliant doctors at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. My problem was so severe that this was the only facility west of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Eye Clinic that could make heads or tails of it.
My ophthalmologist had me on one drop of a steroid medication, Pred Forte, in my left eye each day. My Jules Stein optometrist insisted that I use very specific solutions for my contact lenses as to do otherwise would result in medical damage to my already fragile eyes.
To see a doctor while a resident of Los Angeles County's Devil's Island is no easy feat. First, one must put his name on a nurse's list to be triaged. It can take up to three weeks to be called to see a nurse.
When I say nurse, I used the term loosely. As with Twin Tower doctors, most are from countries that have just discovered the wheel and are deficient in both English and medical acumen. And, as with the county doctors, their primary function is to deny, rather than to provide care.
Four weeks had elapsed by the time I was finally called to visit the jail's ophthalmologist. I shouldn't have bothered. The doctor refused to give me Pred Forte, refused to give me the proper contact lens solutions, and refused to send me to Jules Stein for cataract surgery and to repair the other damage I was experiencing.
As a result, the vision in the one eye I could see with deteriorated hour by excruciating hour, day by maddening day. And there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.
The only thing my piece-of-shit public defender ever did for me was to obtain court orders --four of them-- dictating that the jail must give me the proper eye medications and that I must be taken to UCLA.
But Sheriff Lee Baca and his Twin Towers Correctional Facility operates above the law and chose to ignore each and every one of these court orders. They also turned the other way when the ACLU complaints I managed to obtain arrived. As a result, by the time the judge finally had me released, I was blind. One deputy sheriff told me that that was god wanted and that it was his job to facilitate the Lord.
I have had three surgeries since; my vision is still sketchy at best. On principle alone, I attempted to sue Baca and the county. But our legal system is such that I have yet to find a single lawyer to take my case. A Los Angeles County Bar Association representative told me off the record that this is because there is not enough money in it for them to bother.
In addition to my eye problems, I developed an inner ear infection while in jail. It got so bad that the room spun each time I reclined on my steel slab. It took three weeks to see a doctor. He looked at my ear for some three seconds, snarled that nothing was wrong, then shouted that I had to return to my cell.
But the infection persisted. Three weeks later I returned to the doctor. Same thing. By this time I had lost about 50% of the hearing in that ear, now a permanent condition.
It was only after being hospitalized after release that I learned what was really going on. I was diagnosed with Wallenstrom Macroglobulinemia, a rare, incurable and terminal cancer of the blood centered in the bone marrow which compromises the immune system. I have been told that if not for the incredible stress I had experienced, the cancer would not have developed. I was also told that jail doctors should have suspected that I had a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma because of my 70 pound weight loss and the ear infection that would not heal.
My case is far from unique. In my pod alone, a good person with a severe heart condition, another with constant infection because of a colostomy bag and yet another with AIDS were treated with as much disdain as I experienced.
Violence is rampant in the Twin Towers. Although not often blatant, it's always there. Interestingly, the worst I ever witnessed occurred in a courthouse holding cell, not in the jail, itself. And it was instigated by the miserable sheriff's deputies guarding the place.
Unbeknown st to any of the 50 plus men crammed into the whites only holding cell (meant to hold about 20), an alleged serial rapist/killer was in our midst. Unbeknown st until the door was unlocked and opened and a deputy threw in the California section of that day's Los Angeles Times.
One of the articles (accompanied by a photograph) was about this guy. It was read and passed around. Within minutes, the guy was beaten to within an inch of his life (it didn't matter that he probably deserved it). It was only then that the bastard guards dragged him out and threw him into an isolation cell (instead of taking him to a hospital).
As for me, I experienced more violence at the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department than I did from other inmates. One reason for this is that when I was first thrown in, I was still strong, still had vision and had studied martial arts for many years. I had three incidents the first week that all ended with a single Hapkido technique. From that point to the remainder of my seven months in hell, I was referred to as Mister.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies were another story. The worst of several incidents occurred because the jail, in its infinite wisdom, insisted on handing out sleeping pills between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. This wouldn't be a big deal (I mean, come on, exactly what is someone missing in this pig sty by going to sleep early?) but for the fact that at 10:00 each night, all inmates had to be up, dressed and standing for "head count".
Because of this, many inmates, myself included, "cheeked" the pills (faked swallowing, but keeping the tablet in a cheek) to be saved until head count had concluded. But, as some assholes cheeked their meds and traded them for food and candy, the nurses (and I use the term loosely) and guards were always on cheeking patrol.
One particular night around Christmas, I had a severe case of the flu (I had asked for a flu shot months earlier and was laughed at by TTCF doctors). As a result, I did a sloppy cheeking job and was caught.
One particularly vile and sadistic deputy dragged me out of the pod, threw me against a cement wall, handcuffed my hands and arms behind my back and dragged me into the floor's recreation area (in actuality a big room with a cage instead of bricks acting as walls). There, he grabbed me by the hair and time after time after time slammed by head into the steel cage. Each time the psychotic bastard did so, he screamed, "WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DO THIS TO YOU?"
When he finally had his fill of fun, he threw me to the floor, shackled me to the cage and left me there -- all night. (It should be noted that in jail, only short sleeves are allowed; it was in the low 40's that evening). Because of the flu, I vomited and defecated all over myself numerous times (and the rights groups scream about Guantanamo!), By the time yet another asshole came to get me I was in such bad shape that they had no choice but to take me to the TTCF's hospital. (One has to be next to death before deputies will do that. It should be further noted that it took SIX Third World nurses a half hour to administer the IV prescribed for my dehydration. From my wrist to my shoulder, I was black and blue for two weeks).
A word about the deputies. Anyone who enlists with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has to serve two years in TTCF before allowed to patrol the streets. Why these morons don't sign up with the LAPD, CHP or a suburban police department to avoid two years of guard duty is beyond me. As a result, most deputies want to be in this shithole as much as the inmates do. And day in, day out, they take it out on you. I can literally count on one hand the number of deputies I encountered with even a shred of humanity. Among inmates, it is hoped that when the sadist bastards among the deputies are finally "released" to patrol the streets like normal cops, they will summarily be shot through the heads.
Violence, the brain dead, crackhead morons and meth addicts aside, I did share the hell of this inhumane turd tank with several very nice people.
One guy who immediately comes to mind was an uneducated, yet brilliant man from South Central. This guy was much smarter than I -- he opted to defend himself, took his case in front of a jury and won! Well, almost won.
I don't know the precise specifics of his case, but the upshot is that the LAPD accused him of dropping a gun used in an alleged crime before running. As cops often do when they go to court, these guys lied, a technique used to pad personal records, garner citations, get promotions. But my man caught them in their fantasies, convinced the jury that they were full of shit, and was found not guilty. Not bad for an uneducated kid from the absolute worst part of Los Angeles.
But, as mentioned above, our legal system is so corrupt that the judge, incensed that my friend had beaten his rap (she accused him of "tricking" the jury) sent him to prison for three years -- on a probation violation! Yes. He was found to have violated his probation for a crime he was acquitted of having committed! Welcome to L.A. Law.
It should be noted that those inmates who opt to defend themselves (not a wise choice unless your only other option is the Office of the Public Defender) are virtually blindfolded and handcuffed in their quest.
To begin, the TTCF law library is anything but. There are no law books and no reference books. I had one cellmate who went pro per (that's that they call the act of acting as your own lawyer) who spent three unsuccessful months attempting to locate a copy of the U.S. Constitution!
In addition, anything and everything submitted to the court must be done in a certain manner, and in triplicate. As you can guess copy machines and carbon paper are non-existent. As are typewriters and word processors. Everything must be written by hand using those little, tiny pencils used to keep score when playing miniature golf.
THIS is the County of Los Angeles' version of our constitutional right to self representation.
I have received several emails asking about my case. I would like nothing better than to spell it out in detail, to mention the name and affiliation of every toxic human being I encountered. But, as I am now technically a convicted felon on probation, I no longer have enough First Amendment clout to do so. I have been advised that if I did talk about it, I will be declared in violation of that probation and sent to prison for six years. This is how our system works.
But in March, 2011, that probation will be completed. And at that time I will write about my case in excruciating detail. I will name names of every alleged human being involved and tell all about them. This includes the alleged victim -- the psychotic, drug-addicted nurse/prostitute who perjured herself every step of the way.
Each day spent inside the Twin Towers Correctional Facility is a week long. In summer, it's sweltering. In winter, freezing -- a fact made all the worse as long sleeves are not allowed. I complained to my sister about this. She in turn filed an American Civil Liberties Union complaint. One day a Lee Baca lackey called me outside the pod to talk about it. When I told him how cold my cell was he dismissed me by proclaiming that I was lying, then threatened to put me in the "hole" if I did it again.
In the entire seven months I had the misfortune to reside in this county funed and sanctioned abscess, I never saw a library book. A lifesaving friend felt so bad for me that he sent several Dickens novels my way. I read each a minimum of four times -- by putting the book a half-inch from my diseased and abused eyes.
Meals aside, TTCF inmates spend about 22 of each 24 hours inside their cell. As I mentioned, each four man cell is the size of a closet, and few inmates shower, brush their teeth. I cannot tell you how many hours I was forced to listen to accounts of the "best heroin" these guys ever had.
Once each week, trustees throw (literally) one roll of single-ply toilet paper at you to meet all of your needs. Twice each week, they throw a roll of clean clothing, including a postage stamp-size towel at you.
Which brings me to the trustees. This sewer would not be able to function without them. They are inmates, just like you, who do all "heavy lifting" inside the TTCF. The guards work them like dogs as they do everything the guards, themselves, are supposed to do. And for their trouble, these trustees are paid ... extra food; extra inedible food. These men are used and exploited. Hopefully, one day, a class-action lawsuit will be filed on their behalf.
Back to the courtroom. I cannot stress strongly enough what complete and utter pieces of shit the members of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office are. They almost always lose cases to highly paid private attorneys. As a result, they really stick it to those who must rely on public defender dump drucks for a defense. The D.A.'s office specializes in magically turning mole hills into mountains, primarily by trumping up the charges. They also love to add a menagerie of additional charges to the one you are actually being charged with. For example, if you were arrested for a marijuana violation, the bastards will throw in jaywalking, resisting arrest (whether you did or not), lying to a police officer, dissing a police officer, littering and whatever the hell else their sick imaginations can create. Then they'll whine to the judge that you were once nabbed for shopliting when you were 14 in their quest to put you in prison. I could go on for hours. May they all painfully choke, die, burn and rot in hell.
IF ANYONE YOU LOVE OR EVEN KNOW IS EVER CHARGED WITH A CRIME IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY, IS EVER THROWN INTO ANY OF THE CESSPOOL LOS ANGELES COUNTY JAILS, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO THE FOLLOWING, EVEN IF YOU MUST BEG, BORROW OR STEAL: 1) BAIL THEM OUT! NO MATTER THE COST, BAIL THEM OUT; 2) NEVER, EVER, EVER LEAVE THEIR DEFENSE TO THE OBSCENELY MISNAMED OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER. INSTEAD, HIRE THE MOST VICIOUS AND RABID CRIMINAL LAWYER POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE THEM WITH A DEFENSE. THEIR FUTURES AND POSSIBLY THEIR LIVES CAN DEPEND UPON IT ...