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Court Action Claims Bias Against Black Inmates

June 03, 1986|JOHN SPANO | Times Staff Writer

Administrators at the main Orange County Jail in Santa Ana discriminate against black inmates by sharply limiting their ability to gain early release through good behavior, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People contended Monday.

ACLU attorney Dick Herman filed court papers in which he sought to expand a pending case into one representing all black inmates in the men's jail, saying that blacks' rights are violated because they are not allowed work assignments in kitchen crews.

"The sheriff is well aware of the problem,' Herman said.

"We've been in negotiations with the sheriff and county officials and the sheriff's lawyers for almost a year over the issue and finally last week we delivered a stipulation that they end the practice, which they refused to sign," Herman said.

A spokesman for Sheriff Brad Gates could not be reached for comment.

Inmates can earn time off for good behavior by working in jail, and the majority of such work involves kitchen crews, Herman said.

Yet, "no blacks are permitted to work on the kitchen crews," Herman said. "Because of their race, because of no other reason, because they are black."

The number of black inmates normally runs between 50 and 100, or less than 5% of the jail population, Herman said.

Herman filed the new allegations as part of an existing lawsuit that claimed seven black inmates were seriously injured in a two-day "race riot" in 1985 because jail officials failed to ensure the inmates' state and federal constitutional rights.

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