Lawsuit Alleges Mistreatment of Gay and Transgender Inmates in San Bernardino County

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 15 plaintiffs Wednesday, alleging discrimination and harassment of gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

According to the suit, gay and transgender individuals were routinely segregated and kept in “alternative lifestyle tanks,” while be denied access to various rehabilitation, education, and training programs available to other inmates. They were also subjected to harsher disciplinary actions and poorer living conditions, according to the plaintiffs, with some deputies deriding them as “freak shows” or “sissies”.

The 62-page complaint names San Bernardino County and the sheriff’s department; Sheriff John McMahon; Deputy Chief Greg Garland; Capt. Jeff Rose; Sgt. James Mahan; and a deputy identified as Cpl. Casillas. The plaintiffs—both current and former inmates of the 3,347-bed facility—are seeking unspecified damages, as well as a halt to all discriminatory practices.

“We’re not asking for better treatment than other inmates,” said attorney Dave McLane. “We’re asking for equal treatment.”

Wednesday’s suit comes just months after the FBI launched its own investigation into alleged inmate abuse at the jail. According to another lawsuit, filed in May, inmates were sodomized and electrocuted by officials at the facility. So far, four deputies have been placed on administrative leave as a result of those allegations.

Read more about the latest lawsuit here.