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Chula Vista Jail Calm After Riot Forces Lock-Down

January 08, 1990|G. JEANNETTE AVENT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Calm was restored Sunday at the San Diego County Jail in Chula Vista after 27 inmates were injured in a Saturday night riot, authorities said.

No law enforcement officers were injured in the 20-minute fracas, which began about 9 p.m.

Cellblock 3-A was locked down after a major disturbance between black and Latino inmates broke out in a common area and the inmates refused to return to their cells, said San Diego County Sheriff's Capt. Charles Wood, the jail commander.

The incident is under investigation.

The lock-down, in which inmates are confined to their cells, was lifted Sunday after an undisclosed number of inmates were transferred to other county jails.

At the time of the incident, 113 inmates were being housed in a cellblock designed to accommodate 24 people, Wood said. The jail, designed to confine 192 inmates, held 782 on Saturday.

The cellblock was built with 24 rooms to hold 24 people, said Sgt. Cesar Diosdado, jail watch commander. Of the 113 inmates, 72 were in cells, while the others were assigned to bunks in the day area, he said.

The Associated Press quoted Deputy Jim Cooke as saying that prisoners, "tore mirrors off the wall. Light fixtures were torn down. Some of the bunks were disassembled and the parts were used as weapons."

The cellblock is not expected to re-open until next week because of the extensive damage, Cooke said.

In addition to jail guards, 30 sheriff's deputies responded to the incident, as well as about 15 officers from the Chula Vista Police Department.

Eighteen of the injured inmates were transported to hospitals throughout San Diego for treatment.

In 1989, three other disturbances resulted in inmate injuries at the jail. Cooke said the Chula Vista facility is the most crowded county jail.

A national survey released last year reported that San Diego's jails are the the nation's most overcrowded detention facilities. The study, which examined 27 jail systems with 1,000 or more inmates, found that county jails operated at 212% of capacity during 1988. An average daily prisoner population of 3,702 was squeezed into jails with an official capacity of 1,743, the survey reported.

In 1988, San Diego voters narrowly approved a ballot measure--Proposition A--that authorized a half-cent sales tax increase for new jails and courts. Over its 10-year life, Proposition A was projected to raise $1.6 billion to relieve overcrowding.

However, in March, 1989, the measure was ruled unconstitutional by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gordon Burkhart. Burkhart declared the sales tax illegal on the grounds that it fell short of the two-thirds margin mandated by Proposition 13, the state property tax-cutting initiative approved by voters in 1978.

County administrators have said their only realistic hope of alleviating jail overcrowding lies in overturning the court ruling that struck down Proposition A.

The county's six jails have been the target of several suits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. A court settlement reached before the demise of Proposition A called for inmate population at the South Bay jail to be reduced to 373 by July 1.

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