The Bureau of Prisons contracts with residential reentry centers (RRCs), also known as halfway houses, to provide assistance to inmates who are nearing release. RRCs provide a safe, structured, supervised environment, as well as employment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance, and other programs and services. RRCs help inmates gradually rebuild their ties to the community and facilitate supervising ex-offenders’ activities during this readjustment phase.
Recently we received a report of misconduct that the Bureau of Prisons actually put a city wide population at risk. This article is about a sewage spill that occurred in RRC Vinewood, located in the heart of Hollywood, California.
The plumbing at RRC Vinewood is bad. Very bad. Often the toilets clog and remain clogged for days. There were two broken plungers. No maintenance. At times residents have to share bathrooms, sometimes with over 20 people sharing one toilet at any given time. During August of 2018 the issue got worse when one day the plumbing became so unstable that the sewage began rising up out of the sinks and shower stalls.
The director of the RRC Vinewood didn’t want to call a plumber. Instead the security staff was instructed to open the sewage drain and let the backup sewage flow onto the ground in hopes that the problem would resolve itself.
For three days sewage poured forth into the residents common area where they are required to take meals. The pipe itself wasn’t in an undisclosed secluded area, it was on the main walking path residents use to travel the facility. If a resident wanted to eat they walked past the sewage. If a resident wanted to check the news they walked past the sewage. If a resident wanted to get counseling from their case worker they walked past the sewage. An open area, a place where the facility’s cleaning tools are stored for easy resident access, a place where residents sit in order to eat had an open sewage pipe that was spilling raw sewage for three days.
After three days the plumber came and fixed the problem. The sewage was left to sit. No one wanted to clean it. The fly’s were horrible. Residents began getting sick. A few days later the plumbing was clogged again and the pipe was re-opened. Sewage was again let flow freely onto the ground. The plumber came and fixed the problem again. But no one wanted to clean up the mess.
Two residents took matters into their own hands. One resident went to Home Depot and purchased a protective suit and a breathing mask. When he returned he asked the staff on shift if he and another resident could clean up the mess. They gave them trash bags, gloves, and a shovel. Both residents then proceeded to dig up 8 large trash bags full of human waste that had been sitting for days.
A fly has a range of up to two miles. If a fly lands on infected human waste it can take bacteria to anywhere within its range. RRC Vinewood is situated in the heart of Hollywood, California. There is a large food mart not a block away, a local farmers market two blocks away, and various traveling vendors all along the way. The risk to public safety due to the willful negligence of the RRC Vinewood Director allowed everyone who ate at one of those restaurants, shopped at the farmers market, or enjoyed a bite to eat at one of the traveling vendors to have easily contracted food or water born virus.
The City of Los Angeles has regulations in place to defend against this. When a sewage spill is reported they have one hour to clean up the spill. Residents at RRC Vinewood are strictly forbidden from contacting such an outside agency, this includes the police, media, and city officials. If they do the Director of the RRC Vinewood will order their return to prison. It is the duty of the Director of the RRC Vinewood to report such an incident. This was not done.
RRC Vinewood is contracted by the Bureau of Prisons. Because RRC Vinewood is managed by a privately contracted company, we are unable to disclose the names of the individuals who committed the misconduct.
The following are videos taken during the incident. They are very graphic and suggested for a mature audience.
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