The weather in Southern California has been a breaking news topic. As we are all well informed on weather conditions by now, we turn our sights to the decision by California Attorney General Rob Bonta to investigate Riverside County Sheriff's Department. To summarize what most of the public has already been made aware of, the decision was made on Thursday, February 23, 2023, announcing a full investigation into patterns and practices of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department within the county's jails. What began as a public outcry regarding the significant number of deaths within the facilities has now turned into a full-blown investigation adding a list of unspecified allegations.
Some have called this investigation "nothing more than a witch hunt." However, one journalist who covers stories such as these has a personal stake regarding the allegations; when investigations and disturbing concerns regarding incarcerated individuals hit home for families, it can become problematic and anxiety-ridden. There are mixed emotions, as the public reiterates, "incarcerated for a reason," "three hots and a cot and free medical care," and "what about the victims whose rights were taken away from the crime?" When the focus is on those behind bars, the public does not have much empathy, and these words are pretty understandable. A journalist must report the facts, public opinion, however, not only on a personal or investigative level; she states, "there are no facts at this time, and I respect the public in exercising their right to speak out on how they feel."
Given this investigation, it is not all families of the incarcerated that are against the law enforcement agency but understandably would like to know the truth of the allegations. "My family member is behind bars, and I do not proclaim their innocence." "I greatly respect law enforcement and cannot fathom what they must handle during a day's work within a jail." The family member committed a victimless crime for which she is thankful, while at the same time serving a sentence, has great concern for the well-being of their loved one. "With the report of an uprise in deaths behind bars, it is alarming to hear when the hope is the incarcerated individual has an opportunity to be rehabilitated and live a life as a positive member of society." "The thought of them losing their life behind bars is horrific, that is fact. But with the non-specific additional allegations, brings the confusion of an investigation, of double-edged sword proportions." Explaining that the family member made unlawful choices, reiterating these were choices, not the judicial system just seeking to put someone behind bars; stating a jail is not supposed to be a resort, it must serve its purpose as punishment and learned accountability, but also maintain primary humane conditions. Basically stating she is unsure if the investigation is warranted or not, although understanding the allegations are "overly-concerning."
The journalist feels for those family members who have lost their loved ones. If any illegal practices or patterns are found during this investigation, changes are in immediate order, and accountability is called for. However, the investigation is difficult for the journalist as she agrees that law enforcement in any capacity has a challenging job. She acknowledges that things can fall through the cracks in any profession, especially when looking after multitudes of people. Her loved one has to complete a short sentence compared to some; however, given even the minuscule details regarding the investigation, this still creates anxiety for the amount of time given behind bars. "Anyone who commits a crime on any level should be held accountable. This is not the argument. The conflict is if this investigation is a "waste of time and resources…..political," as Sheriff Chad Bianco has stated, or if this investigation will warrant any real evidence of illegal practice. It is hoped that every family with loved ones behind bars will find peace whether change and accountability are found to be needed, or practices have been lawful within the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
We await this investigation with anticipation and much-needed answers to these allegations. Still, as the journalist with a personal stake in this situation, she will continue to remain unbiased until facts can be reported, leaving her heart and finding her voice no matter the outcome.
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