Cartoons win fresh panties and more for women in county jail

elana-pritchard-jail-hot.jpgElana Pritchard/LA Weekly

Los Angeles cartoonist Elana Pritchard served some time last year in the county's Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, and while there scrounged a golf pencil to draw what she was seeing and experiencing. Her cartoons about the excesses of some shertiff's deputies and the daily indignities of jail ran last December in the LA Weekly. After the piece ran, the captain overseeing the jail asked to meet with Pritchard, listened to her reports, and made some changes. From a followup in the Weekly:

While problems such as jail brutality are systemic and stubborn, others can be dealt with quickly. That's why, at the Lynwood facility, Capt. Gutierrez is addressing several problems Pritchard vividly depicted in her cartoons. "I have so much authority and power, if I don't use it right, shame on me," Gutierrez says.

Gutierrez now requires deputies to indicate, in a computerized system, if the cell lights go off for any reason during normal waking hours — this, to prevent jailers from forcing inmates to spend half their day in darkness, as Pritchard said happened to her and others. Gutierrez says she is skeptical that jailers were plunging inmates into darkness, but she instituted the tracking to be sure.

In addition, deputies now must offer inmates showers while they're being held in so-called "temporary housing," Gutierrez says. Women had previously been stuck in these holding areas without being allowed a shower for up to a week, according to Pritchard.

Inmates now also receive seven pairs of underwear each week instead of four or five — a seemingly minor victory but one needed for a female population. "Men can live with five pairs," Gutierrez says with a smile.

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