LGBT inmates at the West Valley Detention Center, both current and former, have filed suit against the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department for discrimination and abuse faced behind bars. The prison system often separates LGBT inmates for their own safety, but that discrepancy should not reinforce and legitimize the difficulties they have faced according to the suit, from name calling to longer jail sentences.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The suit cites several cases in which gay inmates were allegedly denied equal access to drug rehabilitation and educational programs. Gay inmates were allowed less time out of their cells and were unable to participate in work programs that would reduce their sentences, the suit claims.
"In the United States, we punish people because of the crime they commit, not because of who they are," said Melissa Goodman, an ACLU attorney who filed the suit along with the law firm Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP.
The 'Althernative Lifestyle Tank' where LGBT inmates are kept became a personal hell for the fifteen people filing suit alongside the ACLU, including Peter Guzman who claims he was kept in his cell for up to 23 hours each day.
Guzman, who spent seven months in West Valley awaiting trial in a fraudulent check-writing case, said that from his cellblock he could see that straight inmates were often out of their cells. Sometimes, violent offenders who were straight served food to the gay inmates as part of a work program that gay inmates were denied access to, Guzman said...
Guzman said a deputy once slammed his face against the bars because he is gay.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's office, along with deputies and sheriff John McMahon, are being named in the suit, and for good reason: they either enforced or committed the in-jail discriminatory behavior.
[Former Indiana sheriff deputy and West Valley inmate Dan] McKibben (pictured far right with partner Sean), 51, said he once saw deputies beating a gay inmate. Deputies, he said, regularly used gay slurs when addressing inmates.
McKibben, who spent about two months in the gay cellblock, said he was appalled at the behavior of those who'd taken an oath to uphold the law.
"When you're sworn, you're sworn. And I took that oath," he said. "These guys, every other minute, were violating that."