J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles - February
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Getting An Attitude
Adjustment - Courtesy of LAPD
Dancin' to the jailhouse
One man's long and strange trip through county
Pasadena Weekly, 6/3/99
by Journalist Vic Everett
I've never disliked cops. Even when overzealous
officers stopped me for driving my 1997 BMW five miles over the posted speed
limit, turned my car inside out and asked "Where's the drugs," I still supported
the police. When I was pulled over yet again the night of May 4, I wasn't
surprised. The reason the officer gave for the stop, however, wasn't
"This car has been reported stolen," he said as I
looked straight ahead and placed both hands on the steering wheel.
I didn't see how that was possible since I was the
owner, but mistakes happen, I guess. The parking lot of a Mobil gas station
wasn't the place to argue the point anyway. After I'd produced a valid drivers
license, proof of insurance and car registration, the officer went back to his
vehicle to run my name through his computer -- but not before three additional
patrol cars raced into the Mobil station, sirens wailing, effectively boxing me
At this point I became concerned. In the past,
baseless stops lasted only a few minutes. At worst my
car would be ransacked and I'd get an aggressive body search. Somehow this
seemed different. After several minutes the officer walked back towards my car.
"Did you know you have a warrant?" he asked flatly. I said "no," and asked what
the warrant was for. His reply left me more puzzled.
HANDS ON THE HOOD
"Get out of the car," he said, and stepped back a few
paces. I did as I was told. "Turn around and put your hands on the hood of the
car. Now." the officer said more insistently.
I complied and over the next several seconds was told
that I had a warrant out for my arrest. The offense? Driving without a drivers
As I was being frisked and handcuffed, I reiterated my
innocence to the officer. "You see that my license is valid," I said, "and the
DMV wouldn't have renewed it if I had a warrant." I also pointed out that my car
registration and insurance were current, both impossible to get with an invalid
license. "You can explain all that to the judge," the
officer said, "but right now you're going to jail."
I didn't say another word, but as he tightened the
handcuffs around my writs something deep inside me wailed. This was insane. I
had a college education and a full-time job. I wasn't a criminal. I was an
established journalist, a solid citizen who hadn't missed voting in an election
in more than 10 years.
Over the next several hours, though, I would learn how
insignificant all that really was. At the city jail, I was booked,
fingerprinted, photographed and tagged like a laboratory animal before being led
to an empty, odorous cell. Strange emotions moved through me. For the first time
in my life I was thrown behind bars. ....
After breakfast we were driven by bus to the Los
Angeles County Jail. Prisoners from all over Los Angeles County are brought
there before being bused to courts as far away as Compton and Malibu. After
several hours, my group was taken to the courthouse that issued our
When we arrived, we were taken to a holding cell and
given lunch: a processed meat sandwich, two small sugar cookies and a carton of
juice two days away from its expiration date. The taste was unbelievably bad.
The judge's attitude was even worse. Earlier that day he sent a parolee back to
prison for riding a bicycle at night with no headlight. He was definitely a
judge I didn't want to see.
When I finally stood before the judge, he told me that
I violated parole. Parole? I had never been on parole. .... The judge violently
shook a piece of paper I'd never seen before in his hand and again told me I'd
broken parole. Again I said that I had never been on parole.
"Well, we'll just figure all this out at the trial," he
said angrily, then informed me I'm to be back in court in three weeks. "You'll
be held in custody at the Los Angels County Jail until then."
My mouth dropped open. The dreaded county jail -- home
to the most dangerous criminals in Southern California, and since my family was
not allowed to bail me out at the courthouse, there was no way to defer me from
THROWN IN TOGETHER
The Los Angeles County Jail was worse than I could have
imagined. It's a grimy, dirty hold with nothing that suggest its caretakers hail
from a civilized society. The cells are saturated with filth, and what
mattresses there are for the bunks are as hard as wood and as disgusting as
anything you've ever seen.
Several of the bunks in my "dorm" (which housed 30 men)
had no mattresses, so occupants were forced to sleep on the bare hard steel.
Roaches and rats are commonplace here. In fact, rats scurry about with
As I entered the crowded cell, I met various offenders.
Some more serious than others, but in the republic of jail, we're all thrown in
together. Drug dealers, thieves, murderers and me -- a traffic violator. As I
looked around the room, I became horrified at the conditions I saw. Men sleeping
on hard metal beds, and dirty toilets in one corner without an appearance of an
enclosure. Readily available toilet paper was embarrassingly
Yet despite degenerating conditions at the county jail,
the guards make it truly unbearable. Undisciplined, unequipped and seemingly
untrained, I saw firsthand how the guards take twisted delight in causing the
agony the inmates are forced to endure. Each word out of the mouths of the
guards is proceeded by a four-letter expletive, and their slightest whim
Forget the state Supreme Court or local legislators.
The Los Angeles County Jail has become an isolated fascist society -- one ruled
by would-be dictators of the worst character.
I didn't, however, suffer needlessly. My firsthand
observation have changed the way I see inmates, jails and authority -- and the
way they can all be abused if we don't heed the warnings of the past. History
shows us that an attack on the Constitution won't happen instantaneously. It
will be predicated by hundreds of small violations we rarely
...I...stood before a different
judge in the same courtroom. It was a speedy trial. And as all charges against
me were dropped, I began to feel vindicated. I didn't receive a fine or even,
for that matter, a reprimand of any kind. I did, though, get my wake-up call. I
suppose everybody gets one. When will you get yours?
As one having similar experiences as Vic
Everett, I must take this opportunity to confirm his testimony. I remember
in 1972 when I was called to Los Angeles, I was asked, as a minister, to make
visitations upon the inmates there at the request of the inmates. Back then, I
had the idea that the jails were only for bad people who had committed some
serious offenses against society.
Now having had the experiences of being thrown in
the County Jail two or three times for rinky-dink charges such as
having taken a principle stand against the injustices committed by Lockheed
Corporation in conspiracy with the DMV, I have had a serious attitude
adjustment. After then spending seven days on that occasion, the bottom line was
my being "found guilty" of not having a valid drivers license when I indeed had
a bona fided temporary driver's license from the DMV in my pocket. (The
DMV refuses to issue me a driver's license because of my religious
convictions regarding the Social Security Number). I was given seven days in
jail with "time served" for my evil crime against humanity.
Mr. Everett above relates to the conditions he
encountered while in there. Let me say that I inspected the place as an inmate
for Health and Safety Violations. I found a sink that was backed up, no toilet
paper at the commodes, slop water infested with urine on the floors,
overcrowding, insuffient bedding to name a few. I reported these conditions to
the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, who is charged with inspecting the place, and
also brought suit against the Los Angeles County for these Health and Safety
Violations. I alledged therein that if this were any private business, it would
be closed down. (Of course, the County had the judges to cover for them.)
Also, let me point out some statistics for the
benefit of those who do not know. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department, which is obligated by contract to bus around "prisoners," has more
"patrons" daily than does the entire commercial enterprise of Greyhound in Los
Angeles. For one living in the outskirt states, the jail operations in Los
Angeles would absolutely boggle their mind, and one of the biggest
enterprises in California is prisons, with the leading employment being guards.
I was herded through the system with standing room only
taking six hours just to reach the inside where there were no beds available in
a convention center size room. After having panned the entire room, I finally
found an "available" bed of which I climbed into. No sooner had I bedded down
that I was tapped on the should and a man said, "Your in my bed, I just went to
the toilet." I quickly jumped out of bed and found myself a place on the cold
hard concrete floor for the night. Folks, it is truly a hell-hole which no one
who has gone through it, will readily tell you. Keep in mind that this was my
experience in which I had not yet even had any charges laid against me four
days after my arrest.
I have consistently challenged in court the lack of
probable cause hearings by a magistrate in arrests in several of my lawsuits.
Never once has this grievance be addressed in any court in California in
which I brought action. In one civil rights case brought by me for lack of a
magistrate before Federal Judge William Keller, of which some of our prior
emails have deal, Judge Keller said, "Well, if there had been a magistrate,
...." and I said, "We can not deal with what ifs, we must deal with reality, and
the fact is clear, I was deprived of the Constitutional right preserved
under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to a magistrate." Did I get
that issue heard? Not a all, even though it went clear to the U.S. Supreme
Court with a $300 filing fee, and a single word, "Denied."
From the account of Vic Everett above, anyone can
clearly see the need for a pre-determination of probable cause before being
thrown in jail to face a trial three weeks later, and told, in effect, fgo home,
forget this ever happened. As Mr. Everett says, it was not all for naught,
because he did get an attitude adjustment about inmates, jails and
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