A guard tower.
A guard tower. Photo from Pixabay.

Authorities Thursday investigated the second death in two days of an inmate at the Men’s Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles.

The death was reported at 10:54 p.m. Wednesday at the jail’s inmate reception center at 450 Bauchet St., said Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

An autopsy was pending to determine the cause of death of the man, who was in his 20s, the coroner’s office reported. His name was withheld, pending notification of his family.

The death came a day after the death of an inmate who was pepper-sprayed by authorities to end his alleged assault on a cellmate.

An autopsy is still pending for 31-year-old Juan Correa Jr., pronounced dead around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday after falling unconscious in a shower while decontaminating from the pepper spray, authorities said.

A deputy was conducting a security check inside a housing module when he heard an inmate — later identified as Correa — yelling inside one of the cells, Deputy Trina Schrader said.

While investigating the disturbance, the deputy saw Correa begin to assault his cellmate, Schrader said.

The deputy ordered Correa to stop, but his commands were ignored, and deputies used pepper spray on him and handcuffed him, Schrader said.

Correa was then escorted to the shower area for decontamination where he lost consciousness, Schrader said.

His cellmate suffered minor injuries in the assault and was treated by jail medical staff, she said.

JusticeLA — a coalition of more than 40 community organizations — issued a statement in the wake of the deaths:

“When someone is arrested and put in jail, their health and well-being falls into the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It’s unacceptable for anyone to die while in the custody of the sheriff’s department, but to have two deaths in two days only proves our point that Los Angeles doesn’t need to build new jails — they can’t run the ones they have now without inmates constantly coming up dead on their watch.

The Los Angeles County Jail is the nation’s largest and at least nine inmates have died this year on their watch and in their custody,” according to the coalition. “Last year there were 20 inmate deaths reported, and in 2015, there were 21.

When you factor in that 51 percent of the L.A. County’s jail population has yet to stand trial and be sentenced for a crime — primarily due to the fact that people cannot pay for high bail amounts — it makes it that much more horrendous that inmates are dying are in our jails.

With an ever-increasing mental health population in the county’s jail system, we stand by our assertion that you can’t get well in a cell. Instead of investing $3.5 billion in building new jails with even more sheriff’s deputies who can’t stop inmates from coming up dead — we need to be reinvesting that money back into the community-based alternatives to incarceration.”

On Tuesday, dozens of protesters from JusticeLA rallied downtown to urge the Board of Supervisors not to spend money on new jail construction, blocking a major thoroughfare and bringing traffic in the Civic Center area to a crawl.

JusticeLA aimed to “send a message that we are ready and prepared to disrupt business as usual in Los Angeles” in order to reduce the number of people being held in county jails, Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now told the board.

The county has plans to build a 3,885-bed jail/treatment facility in downtown Los Angeles to replace the rundown Men’s Central Jail and a 1,604-bed women’s lockup in Lancaster. The Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility carries a price tag of about $2.2 billion, while converting the Mira Loma detention center in Lancaster to a women’s jail is estimated to cost $137 million.

Activists say forecasts used by the county overestimate the need for jail beds.

A sheriff’s spokeswoman said the number of beds needed was not expected to decline, as any drop would cause the department to scale back its policy of early release.

“We release inmates before completion of their court-ordered sentence when our inmate population exceeds our ability to properly (or) safely house them,” Nicole Nishida said in an email to City News Service. “We will not see a reduction in our population as a result of Prop. 47 (or) 57, etc., because if (and) when our population decreases, we will raise the percentage of time being served, and the beds will remained filled.”

Both sides say they are aiming to help mentally ill inmates, who make up roughly one-quarter of the total jail population. The terms of a county legal settlement with federal officials mandates that more be done to prevent jail suicides and the mistreatment of mentally ill inmates.

–City News Service

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