The federal civil rights lawsuit alleges incident after incident in which inmates were subjected to gang violence, humiliations, racism, threats and permanent injuries perpetrated not by violent street gangs but by brutal "guard gangs" that ratify membership by tattoos and hand signals and which according to one victimized inmate behave like a pack of wolves.
The lawsuit alleges a pervasive culture of brutality and impunity in Men's Central Jail that goes up the chain of command. Flashlights, boots, fists, tasers, pepper spray and false reports appear to be common weapons employed by the guard gangs.
By any measuring stick such brutality is intolerable in a society that prides itself on governance by the rule of law not to mention principles of fairness, equality and due process.
If the horrific allegations are true, no injunction or other relief can "make whole" these victims of California jail abuse and prison brutality. Yet still the lawsuit leaves one with tenuous feelings of hope. Like every courageous whistleblower and civil rights advocate who went before, the victims who dared to speak and the lawyers who dared to listen will be the heroes in this story.
An effective way to deal with abuse of power and restore the rule of law is to speak truth to such corrupted power in the court of public opinion as well as in the court of law. In this light, the hope that emerges from the broken bones and battered spirits haunting Men's Central Jail is the hope that the system can be repaired. And the very fact of the lawsuit indicates the salvage operation is already underway.