Abby Sewell

abby-sewell-200x300Abby Sewell is a metro reporter covering regional government and breaking news. She was part of the team that covered the story of municipal corruption in the city of Bell, leading to the L.A. Times' Pulitzer prize win for public service journalism in 2010.

LA County Supes Considering New Probation Oversight Body

Los Angeles County supervisors will consider setting up a new oversight panel to monitor the perennially troubled probation department. The probation department emerged in 2015 from six years of federal monitoring of conditions in the juvenile camps and halls, after federal officials found the agency had carried out required reforms. But a few months later, its chief, Jerry Powers, departed under a cloud after reports surfaced that he had improperly hired a woman with whom he had a … [Read more...]

L.A. County Hashing Out Sheriff’s Oversight Details

After a lengthy delay, Los Angeles County supervisors began to hash out final details Tuesday in the structure of a new civilian oversight commission for the Sheriff's Department, which has been racked by years of scandals over abuses in the jails. The supervisors voted 4 to 1 to move forward with a process for approving members of the nine-member panel. Under the proposal, the five supervisors would appoint one member each. The remainder would be chosen by the board from a list of 20 … [Read more...]

In Jail For Being Developmentally Disabled

n January 2014, Edward Lamont Mason allegedly attacked and injured a woman with a baseball bat. He was arrested and has been in jail ever since, even though a judge ruled he was unfit to stand trial. Mason, it turns out, is developmentally disabled. The victim of the alleged assault was his caretaker. And while the judge ordered him sent to Porterville Developmental Center — the only state hospital set up to house and treat developmentally disabled criminal defendants — there is no … [Read more...]

In Push to Keep Mentally Ill Out of Jail, County to Expand Crisis Centers

the urging of Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and others lobbying to keep mentally ill people from being locked up in county jails, Los Angeles County supervisors voted Wednesday to fund several programs for people undergoing psychiatric crises. The supervisors voted to use $40.9 million in state funding for opening three new 24-hour psychiatric urgent care centers, where police can bring people undergoing mental health crises instead of taking them to overcrowded emergency rooms or jail. The … [Read more...]

Police Need More Training to Deal with Mentally Ill, L.A. County Told

consultant hired to find a way to divert the mentally ill from Los Angeles County's jail system found that not enough law enforcement officers were trained to handle people undergoing a mental health crisis. In a report made public Wednesday, the consultant found that more resources were needed to train police officers, dispatchers and other criminal justice workers on how to deal with people with mental illness, and that law enforcement agencies should expand the use of special teams that … [Read more...]

D.A. Jackie Lacey Calls Jailing of Mentally Ill a ‘Moral Question’

s Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey told county supervisors Tuesday that gaps in services and communication breakdowns between agencies have resulted in more mentally ill people being sent to jail. Lacey, who is heading up a group of leaders from different agencies focused on expanding diversion programs, called the issue a "moral question." "The use of the jail as a mental health ward is inefficient, ineffective and in many cases it is inhumane," she said. "It is inhumane to the … [Read more...]

$2 Billion Price Tag for Jailing Mentally Ill

Consultant lays out options for $2-billion L.A. County jail overhaul Proposals involve the replacement of the downtown Men's Central Jail and a women's jail in Lynwood. consultant hired by Los Angeles County to develop a long-term plan for the county's aging jail facilities laid out options for a roughly $2-billion proposed overhaul of the county's jail system in a report released Wednesday. Concerned about deteriorating facilities and poor living conditions for inmates with mental health … [Read more...]

Activist Battles Jailers’ ‘Culture of Violence’

utside the bunker-like county jail complex, bail bondsmen hover by the visitors' entrance, thrusting fliers at potential customers as they file in to see husbands, sons and friends. Along the sidewalk, taxi drivers hustle for fares among newly released inmates who pace about, dialing cellphones, reconnecting and searching for rides. A young woman with a short shock of dreadlocks atop a mostly shaved head set off by chunky gold earrings joins them. She has a brisk walk, a broad smile — and a … [Read more...]

System Would Change How L.A. County Inmates Get Early Release

he Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is considering a new system for deciding which jail inmates get released early by making predictions about who is most likely to commit new crimes. The proposal calls for a significant shift for the nation's largest jail system, which currently determines when inmates get released by looking at the seriousness of their most recent offense and the percentage of their sentence they have already served. Officials say the current system has weaknesses … [Read more...]

L.A. County Struggles with Felons Bolting Probation

eter Azevedo is a hard man to keep on the straight and narrow. Released from state prison in early 2012, he has been in and out of L.A. County jail at least half a dozen times, serving a few days, a few weeks or a few months for skipping out on probation, using drugs and carrying a knife. As of Christmas Eve, he was gone again. Two years into a major redistribution of responsibility for convicted felons, Los Angeles County officials are struggling to deal with a recalcitrant group of … [Read more...]