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2 Chaplains Say Jail-Visiting Privileges Revoked

Pair see a link to their critical words. Sheriff's aides deny connection, say just one is barred.

June 21, 2003|Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

Two Roman Catholic chaplains well known in Los Angeles said they were told Friday that they no longer have access to minister in the County Jail and that the reason was their public criticism this week of conditions at a juvenile detention facility.

Father Gregory Boyle and lay minister Javier Stauring said the decision was made by the Sheriff's Department and conveyed by the head chaplain at the jail.

However, sheriff's officials said late Friday that Boyle's access to the jail had not been revoked. Stauring's was, they said, because in criticizing conditions at the jail he had publicly discussed confidential information about juvenile inmates.

"I did ask that [Stauring's] pass be pulled, because I had concerns about the privacy violations," said Sheriff's Capt. Ray Leyva, who runs the County Jail. "I can't keep putting the county in the position of someone saying things that violate the confidentiality of people we have in custody."

Boyle and Stauring were quoted by The Times on Thursday in a story about the Men's Central Jail unit that houses minors facing trial as adults. The unit, which holds as many as 44 teenagers, has come under scrutiny by juvenile justice groups for detaining minors in 4-by-8-foot cells for up to 23 1/2 hours a day.

Both men said the head chaplain told them their access to the jail had been revoked because they had strongly and publicly criticized conditions at the juvenile jail. The head chaplain could not be reached for comment late Friday.

"I find this extraordinary," said Boyle, executive director of Homeboy Industries, which offers employment to gang members trying to reform. "I don't think there is any doubt there is a relationship between my comments in the L.A. Times ... and this action today."

Stauring, co-director of detention ministry for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said, "I fear the bigger picture here is that this could [convince] other chaplains no one should speak out against the system because you will be denied access."

That sentiment was expressed in a letter sent Friday to Sheriff Lee Baca by state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who plans to hold hearings on conditions at the juvenile unit.

"Your department's decision to ban Father Boyle and Chaplain Stauring from Men's Central Jail is very troubling to me," wrote Romero, who chairs the Select Committee on the California Correction System. "The actions taken against them appear to be retaliatory for their speaking out over the lockdown-like conditions minors are being held in at Men's Central Jail," she said.

But Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the agency "has no issue with Father Boyle. It does have an issue with Chaplain Stauring, but that has nothing to do with his beliefs about how we run the jail. It has to do with what he is disclosing about inmates, privacy issues and putting the department at risk of being sued."

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