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Black Inmates Allege Abuse

Courts: Orange County officials defend record but won't talk about three prisoners' case.


Three black inmates at the Orange County Jail charge in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that a group of deputies known as the "psycho crew" and "suicide committee" harass and abuse African American detainees.

The suit was filed by Richard P. Herman, the Laguna Beach attorney who is asking a federal judge to hold the Sheriff's Department in contempt of court.

Herman maintains that the deputies' actions violate a 1978 federal court order aimed at stemming jail overcrowding.

Herman contends that deputies are routinely disregarding jail policy, resulting in abuses at the jail.

The suit says the deputies hurl racial slurs at black inmates, beat them and psychologically abuse them. The court documents include handwritten statements from three inmates.

Sheriff's Department officials declined to comment. "It is the practice of the Sheriff's Department not to comment on these kinds of matters before our legal counsel reviews the court documents," said spokesman Jon Fleischman. "We stand by the fact that Orange County jails are among the best run in the nation."

This is the third case Herman has filed alleging wrongdoing by sheriff's deputies in recent months. A suit filed last month accused deputies of forcing inmates to stand naked in cells.

"These are only allegations and we feel comfortable about our ability to defend the Orange County jail system in court," Fleischman said.

Herman, he added, "files many, many claims against our jail system

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