Deplorable things I witnessed within the Clark County Detention Center
Reporting by Stephanie Kutner
Graphics by Rachel Karabenick
Before I tell you of the deplorable things I witnessed within the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC) I need you to spare a minute and take concrete action to affect real change within Nevada’s carceral system.
I have already filed a formal complaint detailing the deplorable conditions and abuses I witnessed against people of color within CCDC and am currently looking for assistance in filing a federal subpoena to obtain the video footage of the main area where we were kept, as proof of the injustices that occurred.
- SB 50 – The bill would create more barriers for police officers to use no knock warrants
- SB 108 – Requires actors in the criminal justice system (prosecutors, public defenders, police, judges) to receive cultural competency training and education.
- SB 164 – The Safe Harbor Bill is an act providing that victims of human trafficking are immune from civil and criminal liability for the commission of certain offenses
- SB 212 – Requires certain use of force data to be submitted to Attorney General
- SB254 – The Fair Chance Housing Act prohibits landlords from looking up an applicants criminal history and offers extra protections for people living with disabilities
- AB 58 – The bill would (1) require police misconduct to be reported to the Attorney General and (2) allow the Attorney General to civilly prosecute police misconduct and murder
- AB 96 – The bill establishes non-police emergency mental health services
- AB116 – decriminalizing traffic violations (which has been introduced for several sessions)
- AB 127– Blocking disclosure of police personal information from public record
- AB131 – Requires law enforcement agencies to mandate wearing body worn cameras whenever officer is in uniform, on duty, and interacting with the public
- AB 133 – Requires law enforcement agencies to provide training for police officers in approaching and interacting with civilians who are open carrying firearms, and also mandates all uniformed police officers to wear body worn cameras
- AB151 – the Driving for Opportunity Act to prevent license suspensions for the inability to pay fines
- AB 157 – Makes it easier for civilians to sue a police officer for discriminatory or harassing conduct.
- AB230 – limiting direct files, the practice of trying juveniles in adult court;
- AB376 – Requires local law enforcement agencies to report annually to the legislature statistics related to the transfer of undocumented persons to the custody of federal agencies
- AB396 – Requires that deadly force can only be used when the civilian is posing imminent danger to the peace officer or civilian, or is to believed to have committed a violent felony
- AB 409 – This bill adds identifying “implicit bias” as a part of the recruitment (for peace officers) process specifically vetting recruits that have implicit bias towards race, mental health, mental or physical disabilities, religion, national origin, color, sexual identity or gender identity or expression
On the night before Easter I was arrested and held for over six hours at CCDC, which saw 43 presumptive positive cases of Covid in October. According to Arriba, “between 2017-2018 Las Vegas Municipal Jail had a direct hand in the deportation proceedings of 1,532 individuals via non-mandatory notifications of detention of anyone foreign born, notifications of release, and extended detention of individuals as a courtesy to ICE.” Currently the Latinx community’s rightful distrust of state agencies is leading to much lower vaccination rates in the valley.
While my friends and I were protesting in Chicago, LVMPD was destroying first aid tents and medical supplies and SWAT officers, in violation of LVMPD’s use of force policy, shot pepper balls at protestors and legal observers. In a state where Sheriff Joe Lombardo, just a few days ago admitted that the use of deadly force was a major issue for the department while congratulating himself on how “proactive he had been in this space,” in reference to potential protests which might arise during or after the Chauvin Trial.
I am fearful of the crackdowns to come.
At CCDC I had my temperature taken outside and was forced to change into orange “Pennywise” shoes, as a fellow detainee called them. They put an ‘S’ on my hand, which meant I’d been scanned, the latest transaction within a system founded on profiteering off of Black and Brown bodies.
I was held along with approximately 20 others, without access to clean water from approximately 10:30PM-4:30AM, before being transferred as a walk through where there was a water fountain. They were stuffing too many people in the jails over Easter weekend and were already overcrowded to begin with. They had a little more safety outside when they took our temperature but once inside was horrific. After I was scanned I was told to sit inside. They asked me to put my fingers in my mouth to show my gums. I asked for hand sanitizer before this, since I’d just touched multiple surfaces, including the back of the cop car and the holding bench. I was forced to do it without sanitizer. We were seated four or five to a bench. It all seemed purposely set up to be devoid of any health standards. The lack of water, clean areas, horrendous bathroom, no antibacterial anywhere seemed intentional. The cops were talking about COVID-19 in jest, like social distancing and other safety measures were all part of the elaborate liberal con job related to a fake virus.
Women and men were not allowed to talk to each other. Every so often the cops would pace around and threaten us with more time if we (the women) kept speaking to each other.
Most of the Black people I met inside had just had their blood drawn. Because of Nevada’s implied consent law, a person arrested for a DUI does not have a right to refuse an evidentiary test of their blood. If a person refuses, the officer has a right to forcibly withdraw blood from them. I had no access to clean water or a phone and no ability to speak to those around me without facing retribution.
In addition to having her blood drawn the middle-aged Black woman seated next to me was also refused a call to her employer. She told me her arresting officer claimed she parked in a handicapped spot, which she says she had not. Then the cops impounded her car and claimed they could not find her phone. So when they released her early in the morning she would have to risk being on the street and getting assaulted since without her phone, she wouldn’t be able to call a ride.
If you are arrested in France you have the right to be informed of the purpose of the detention and its expected duration, the right to be informed of the exact legal qualification of the criminal offense you are suspected to have committed, the right to be assisted by a lawyer as of the beginning of the detention, the right to be examined by a physician and other basic rights which afford you some modicum of human dignity. Here, there were no such things.
Inside I asked for water and a female officer stonewalled me. The girl next to me told me there was water in the bathroom and when I got up an officer rushed over to me to yell, “the inmates don’t tell you when you can get up, I do,” before she let me in the bathroom, which was filthier than any truck stop on earth. There was no fountain, just what looked like a port-a-potty sink. I knew I’d be taking my life in my hands if I drank out of it, so parched from walking over six miles earlier, I returned to the back bench, livid.
Every single cop refused to give their badge numbers and full names. They bullied everyone who asked any questions and told stories of other inmates who hadn’t listened and wound up getting 24-48 hours inside in order to intimidate us.
Cops made fun of a mentally ill man who could not even stand up or state his name. They taunted a homeless woman with matted hair and made sure to sit her down next to two women who were picked up for solicitation. One young Black man in his mid twenties attempted to tell people their rights. For demanding to know his officer’s name, badge number and the duration of his detention the cops forcefully took him aside. I watched as they twisted his arm behind his back and jerked him violently, helpless and scared to speak out for fear of being kept in a jail in which I was sure to contract COVID-19.
Another Black man who asked for a badge number was screamed at by an officer and then screamed at some more for “making me [the officer] curse on Easter weekend.” A Latinx woman in her early thirties was arrested for a DUI, even though she had just had two shots, to ease the pain of her upcoming divorce. Just as she was about to be released she asked for the officer’s badge number. For this, she was side celled and taken away crying that she had done nothing wrong, she’d just asked for a badge number. When I was released around 5, I saw no trace of her, so I assume she was held overnight, if not longer.
A girl next to me was arrested for solicitation. “How is it I can f*** seven men in a row for free and get in trouble for not taxing the eighth?” She wasn’t wrong. Barbara G. Brent from the Nevada Independent, backing the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the World Health Organization support of decriminalizing data states:
A wealth of empirical data unequivocally shows that criminalizing consensual exchange of adult sexual services causes severe individual and social harms, the largest burden of which falls on women, people of color, transgender and non-binary workers, people with disabilities, economically marginalized workers and community members.
These miniscule infractions should not cause someone’s life to be ruined. Having two shots because your husband just cheated on you should not cost you your livelihood. Being a sex worker should not open you up to sexual assault. Should not open someone up to deportation, unfathomable charges and unceasing legal proceedings. Should not rip families apart. Should not be a fatal mistake.
This culture of racial profiling, torture, bullying, harassment is nothing new. From its founding as a slave patrol, the carceral system’s main function is not to uphold justice. It is to rob Black and Brown bodies. The Middle Passage is no longer carried out through oceans, it flows with impunity in our streets, where every Person of Color risks the threat of enslavement for the audacity of existing.
This is where your tax dollars are going and have always gone. You are paying to maintain the racists in power with your money, but also, with your complacency. It is up to you to right the wrongs your tax dollars have wrought on our communities. To speak out against the conditions which Sheriff Joe Lombardo and his Republican friends allow. I hear he is running for governor. We can not allow this to happen.
Now is the time for mass action, led by Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Trans voices. Now is the time to step out into your community and show up to fight alongside your brothers and sisters.