Jailhouse justice - Page 3

A group of sheriff's deputies is accused in civil court of beating jail inmates

It's a very tense environment with very sophisticated prisoners, and the deputies have to be very sophisticated as well."

Hennessey has a reputation as a progressive who shows more compassion toward inmates than most sheriffs, but he arguably can't oversee all of the 850 sworn employees under his supervision. Hennessey told the Guardian that he'd directed investigations into complaints about Prado's conduct in the past, but he insisted they had not resulted in discipline, and he remains confident of all three deputies.

"Mike Hennessey is probably as good a sheriff as you're ever going to get," said Dan Macallair, a criminal-justice expert at San Francisco State University who specializes in corrections policy. "But Mike Hennessey is one person. The Sheriff's Department is a big bureaucracy. Law-enforcement bureaucracies tend to be very closed, and there's a code of silence.... They don't do well at policing themselves."

In response to the allegations, the City Attorney's Office was sure to remind Judge Walker exactly what the court was dealing with: hardened criminals. Perez, a purported member of the Norteños gang, is now in San Quentin doing 25 years to life for murder. Henderson was awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder and eventually pled guilty to robbery.

But not everyone in jail is prison bound. All of Candell's clients were in pretrial custody at the time of their alleged abuses and simply too poor to afford bail before they had their day in court. Woodfox was eventually released after attempted murder and carjacking charges against him were dismissed.

"The bad guards are the ones that control the culture within the institution typically," Macallair told us, noting that he supports the establishment of outside oversight bodies. "The good people don't speak up.... There's always going to be problems in correctional institutions. It's just their nature. But you can at least help promote a humane, better-managed environment when there's accountability and monitoring."<\!s>

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