SBCO Sheriff Badge

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 05/20/14, 8:31 PM PDT |

RANCHO CUCAMONGA >> San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon on Tuesday gave a tour of the West Valley Detention Center, praising the facility as first rate while countering allegations of inmate abuse in the wake of an FBI investigation, the firings of three deputies and the filing of a federal lawsuit by half a dozen inmates alleging civil rights violations.

McMahon stood firm in his belief that there is no pattern of inmate abuse occurring at the jail and that the pending criminal and administrative investigations are isolated to only a few deputies in one unit of the jail. He also disputed allegations that inmates are not receiving proper medical care.

“I truly believe that in our county (jail) we offer great medical and psychological care, as well as we provide good care and custody of the inmates that are in custody,” McMahon said.

A registered nurse is staffed in every unit of the jail 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the jail has a team of doctors with varied specialties on standby should any inmate need them, said Terry Fillman, the jail’s health services administrator who accompanied McMahon on Tuesday’s tour along with the jail’s second-in-command, Lt. Linzy Savage, and department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman.

The jail has a dental clinic, a state-licensed dialysis unit, and an award-winning automated prescription program where 3,000 prescriptions, on average, are administered daily, Fillman said.

“We are one of the most progressive and premier facilities in Southern California,” Fillman said.

Doctors see, on average, 70 inmate patients a day on weekdays and about 30 a day on weekends, said Dr. Jeffrey Haga, the jail’s chief medical officer.

McMahon said most of the inmate complaints on poor medical care are unfounded.

“Obviously, if someone fills out a grievance we investigate to find out if there’s any truth to it,” said McMahon. “But when it comes to complaints about the medical care that inmates are provided within our facility, or mental health care for that matter, most of the time, 99 percent of the time, there’s nothing to the complaint.”

Rana Anabtawi, a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, said her office has been investigating complaints by dozens of inmates alleging excessive use of force by deputies and substandard medical care at the jail. She said in a recent interview that complaints started pouring in in the fall.

The jail, which opened in 1991 and has a capacity of 3,092, is one of the largest jails in California and the most active of San Bernardino County’s four jails, the other three being the recently expanded and renamed High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto, the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center, and the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino.

Last month, the jails hit the media spotlight when the FBI and Sheriff’s Department jointly announced criminal and administrative instigations at the jail. Three rookie deputies — Brock Teyechea, Andrew Cruz and Nicholas Oakley — were fired, while several others remain under investigation.

To read entire story, click here.