Abu Ghraib, California: Report Shows Brutal Abuse of Prisoners in LA County Jails

by | September 29, 2011

A report released yesterday by the ACLU National Prison Project and ACLU of Southern California shows a pattern of brutal abuse in the Los Angeles County Jail system, which at times crossed the line into torture. The abuse has been carried out by the sheriff’s deputies in charge of prisoners in the county’s jails, who according to eyewitnesses have punched, kicked, and beaten prisoners to the point that they required surgery or hospitalization; humiliated them with sexual and racial epithets and thrown them in solitary confinement; and knowingly subjected them to assault and rape by other prisoners. The report, titled Cruel and Unusual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails, opens with the following paragraphs:

To be an inmate in the Los Angeles County jails is to fear deputy attacks. In the past year, deputies have assaulted scores of non-resisting inmates, according to reports from jail chaplains, civilians, and inmates. Deputies have attacked inmates for complaining about property missing from their cells. They have beaten inmates for asking for medical treatment, for the nature of their alleged offenses,and for the color of their skin. They have beaten inmates in wheelchairs. They have beaten an inmate, paraded him naked down a jail module, and placed him in a cell to be sexually assaulted. Many attacks are unprovoked. Nearly all go unpunished: these acts of violence are covered up by a department that refuses to acknowledge the pervasiveness of deputy violence in the jail system.

Deputies act with such impunity that in the past year even civilians have begun coming forward with eyewitness accounts of deputies beating non-resisting inmates in the jails. These civilian accounts support the seventy inmate declarations describing deputy-on-inmate beatings and deputy-instigated inmate-on-inmate violence and deputy threats of assaults against inmates that the ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU/SC) has collected in the past year, as well as the myriad inmate declarations the ACLU/SC has collected over the years.

The ACLU’s Blog of Rights describes in detail some of the worst incidents of abuse:

Juan Pablo Reyes was punched by Los Angeles County  sheriff’s deputies over and over again in the ribs, mouth and eyes, breaking  his eye socket and leaving his body badly bruised. After falling to the ground,  the deputies continued to kick Reyes, an inmate at the Los Angeles County Jail,  with their steel-toed boots, ignoring his cries.

And the deputies didn’t stop there.

They ordered Reyes to strip and forced him to walk naked up  and down the hallway of a housing module, in full view of other inmates. One  deputy yelled, “Gay boy walking.” Reyes began to cry, but the  deputies just looked on and laughed. They then put him in a cell where he was  beaten and sexually assaulted by other inmates. He desperately pled for help  and to be removed from the cell, but to no avail.

In another incident, an inmate who discovered after deputies  had searched all the cells in his row that some of his property was missing was  savagely beaten after asking to speak to a sergeant. Deputies beat this inmate  so violently he suffered a fractured jaw and required eye surgery and stitches  in his ear. A deputy shoved him hard against a wall, slapped his ear, punched  his face several times and then threw him to the ground. While on the ground,  the inmate was kicked by the deputy roughly 10 times in his face, jaw and back  of his head, causing a large pool of his blood to form on the floor. The inmate  described the beating as being more painful than being hit by a car.

The ACLU has been the court-appointed monitor of conditions in the LA county jails since 1985, and has produced critical reports in the past. However, the new report “is the first in which a chaplain and other civilian eyewitnesses come  forward with first-hand accounts.” It is also the first to show the lengths to which Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has gone to ignore, downplay, or cover up the abuse. In a news conference yesterday, Baca defended his deputies and dismissed the report.

The ACLU filed the report, along with seventy sworn eyewitness statements, in federal district court yesterday as part of an ongoing lawsuit, Rutherford v. Baca. The group is also calling for the U.S. Justice Department to launch a full criminal and civil rights investigation into the allegations contained in the report.

Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway (1936-2021) was the founder and co-director of Solitary Watch. An investigative journalist for over 60 years, he served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice and Mother Jones, reporting domestically on subjects ranging from electoral politics to corporate malfeasance to the rise of the racist far-right, and abroad from Central America, Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia. Earlier, he wrote for The New Republic and Ramparts, and his work appeared in dozens of other publications. He was the co-director of two films and author of 20 books, including a forthcoming posthumous edition of his groundbreaking 1991 work on the far right, Blood in the Face. Jean Casella is the director of Solitary Watch. She has also published work in The Guardian, The Nation, and Mother Jones, and is co-editor of the book Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement. She has received a Soros Justice Media Fellowship and an Alicia Patterson Fellowship. She tweets @solitarywatch.

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  • Anarchy qualities & attitudes within Law Enforcement

    Anarchy in America is on the rise as television shows and recent fast action movies are making the concept even more popular but without deliberate intent, making the behavior more socially acceptable within law enforcement circles. Recent events such as the Fast and Furious weapons scandal Department of Justice investigation is a prime example of we are dealing with today. Looking at some of this kind of philosophy in role models, you will find assimilation everywhere from organized labor groups to Facebook followers to the type of clothes they wear and the motorcycles or vehicles they ride or own illustrates their anti-social behaviors and attitudes in public forum. In fact, this anarchist movement seems to be alive and well among those who have sworn to uphold the law and maintain order within our own societies while wearing a badge. Looking at the definition of the word one must take into considerations various forms out there that mimic or resemble whatever they may believe their own ideology represents through their own actions, words or behaviors. Reading “a theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society,” you can put a face on individuals who endorse such behavior or ideology contrary to the sacred oath they have sworn to uphold and to “serve and protect” others from lawlessness and disruption.

    The resemblance of dictatorial or authoritarian management styles confirms elements of such ideology is present with all its associated prejudices and biases. Justice is perceived to be about restitution and not retribution. It has also grown into a sense of entitlement that clouds their judgment in cases that covers the good of all rather than the desires of a few. Their personal beliefs vary from using the government as a protective device to embellishing the use of private contracts to deliver personal gain or wealth as they exhort their rights to collect compensation in most cases. Hence we see examples of private property anarchism versus government property and associated governmental laws. They replace their opinion and argue that private contractors or individuals have the right to provide services such as law, security and other governmental services now in the process of being privatized by many government agencies to save costs etc. The facts are that today, there are many governmental roles being converted into privatized roles to suit the needs of the individuals involved in these transactions. In addition, there are attitudes that are making it clear about who is in a position of power and who are subordinates to that order of power.

    Going further or deeper into these arguments, they want society to function without a state owned court or police illustrating the recent events where police take matters into their own hands and use excessive force and even lethal force more common today than ever before making such decisions on their own personal values rather than training received. . This further translates into the oversight of prisons and jails as they propose competition for such services as the prime reason for the change creating legitimate avenues for injecting these anarchist feelings into the environment. Regarding law enforcement how would public safety be handled under a non state legal system and what would privatized entities do to reduce street crime and operate prisons. It is with much certainty that the enforcement of non-state laws would be unpredictable in nature and difficult to create a blueprint of how both misdemeanor and felony crimes would be resolved under such conditions “would be futile and counterproductive.”

    It is more likely that these personalities reflecting anarchy and noncompliance to rules and regulations is the main factor that has created mass incarceration efforts to fill the prisons where these individuals can wield their power and control over those imprisoned without any recourse or relief from the outside as their “torture” is not documented but rather denied vehemently to the public or the courts. Therefore, it is the transition of a state owned government to a privatized government that is being created today by those in power and seeking to absolve all ties with government to further enhance their own wealth and power while creating future financial possibilities after their government service is completed to undergo such a transition from state to private in a new endeavor enriched by state taxes and obligations to give it full term benefits for a very long time.


  • The DOJ is searching through documents going back to 2009 – the indicators are systemic failures of reporting abuse and other violations. I suspect that we began to experience this trend of misconduct and criminal activiities when mass incarceration resulted in streamlined hiring practices that compromised background checks and other character flaws. Read my article based on the recent DOJ report on this matter: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/9039071/misconduct_background_checks_correctional.html?cat=9

  • Alan CYA#65085

    It is obvious from the following statement that we can not trust the system to regulate itself.


    Report Details Wide Abuse in Los Angeles Jail System

    “This situation, the length of time it has been going on, the volume of complaints and the egregious nature are much, much worse than anything I’ve ever seen. They are abusing inmates with impunity, and the worst part is that they think they can get away with it” said Tom Parker, a retired F.B.I. official.

    Ex-assistant warden Carl has explained why these rouge officers have gotten away with this for so long.









    Excerpts from N.Y. Times article:

    “F.B.I. agents sneaked a cellphone to a prisoner as part of an investigation.”

    Ex-assistant Warden Carl also suggested this course of action when he wrote.


    So “put some more moles into these holes” to put the fear of being discovered. Only then will they control themselves.

    Your a wise man Carl!

  • Alan CYA#65085

    @Carl I am glad you mentioned how neglect can and is abusive.

    Here are few stories of abuse I or others I know encountered in L.A. This is not new.

    The year 1966:

    Greg looked like GI Joe standing 6’4” with rugged good looks, straight blond hair, blue eyes and a square jaw. As he spoke he began to tell me about what went down in L.A. County Jail while he was there with Mike. I listened intently with a mixture of brotherly pride and awe as he paid homage to Mike’s actions. This is what they had to say.

    “Every since the Watts Riots the inmate population in County Jail had been exploding. Sexual attacks were becoming an every night occurrence with one after another of us falling victim. There were gangs of inmates beating and raping a different guy in the dorm every night. The guards knew what was happening but did nothing to prevent it. They just transported the victims one by one to the hospital the next morning.

    At the age of 17 and weighing a mere 125lbs Mike realized that it was just a matter of time until he was targeted so he took preemptive action.

    After a violent surprise attack on the leader of the “Booty Bandits” which left the rapist blinded and bleeding the bulls came running into the cell and took Mike away in shackles. Chained from the waist to his ankles Mike was held in a separate room and questioned as the medics frantically worked on the other guy’s wounds in the clinic down the hallway. After stitching the man’s wounds up on both his face and his arms the wounds were wrapped up in gauze. Then the bulls escorted him into the solitary confinement unit.

    Man, I mean, everyone gasped when they saw this dude, bandaged up like some kind of Egyptian mummy. Then the bulls went to get your brother and we all held our breath wondering who the fuck could have given this huge dude such a horrific beating. When your brother was brought in seemingly struggling against the weight of his shackles the whole unit burst out laughing because we had all expected to see some kind of fierce giant foaming at the mouth not some skinny teenage boy.

    Some weeks later we heard Mike yell out as he was being escorted out of the hole “Hey guys catch you later. I am being sent up to Tracy. Keep the faith home boys.” With that Mike was lead out and transported to Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy, California.
    Later the next year Greg and I were walking back to my house one evening.

    I was 15 years old that night that a group of jealous patrons at a bar attacked us for taking a peek through the bars opened front door as a young woman performed a sensual dance. After an intense physical confrontation between the two of us and a half a dozen men we went to my house to lick our wounds. We had just finished cleaning up and exited my nearby home when as we reached the sidewalk I saw the angry mob point towards us and then we heard the sound of vehicles starting up. The dark night was instantly illuminated by several police vehicles lights and the chorus of their sirens sent a chill down my spine as they wailed towards us. I sprinted across the street and down the block with Greg struggling to keep up behind me being he was heavier and more intoxicated than I. Greg had also taken a lot of punishment to his torso and ribs from undefended body blows. Two men had held Greg’s arms back while a stocky man pummeled his body.

    As a police motorcycle rapidly approached us down the center of the sidewalk I made an abrupt turn to the left to avoid being run over. However the cop struck Greg in the back of his head with his night stick as he drove by then he dumped his motorbike on the grass. Although Greg had been knocked nearly unconscious from the policeman’s first blow and laid defenselessly face down on the front grass of an apartment complex the cop sat down on Greg’s back and continued to pummel him. With flocks of police vehicles approaching I dared not stop running least I receive the same treatment. I jumped the back fence bordering the apartment complex’s rear parking lot and ran towards the next street. As I ran the cops pulled up to the front of the house where I stood and I was trapped there. I felt I had no other option but to climb up the house’s drain pipe. Luckily I was light and agile enough to scale up the pipe without ripping it off the building. The home had a flat recessed roof which made it possible for me to hide beneath it’s roughly eighteen inch wall surrounding the entire perimeter of the roof and toped off with decorative Spanish style barrel tiles. As I laid there motionless I tried to control my heavy breathing brought on by the chase and listened carefully for the police foot steps approaching my position. The blaring sounds of police radio communications seemed to come at me from all directions as the police using flashlights scanned the yard and even the roof-line under which I lay hidden for any signs of their prey.

    From my position above the scene I could hear Greg’s plea “Ok I give up please stop hitting me!” which only fell on deaf ears as the police continued beating him. Realizing that they weren’t going to stop Greg would then say “Fuck it then.” as he unsuccessfully attempted to fight back once more. This exchange repeated itself several more times until, as I found out later, my mother intervened.

    My mother had been awakened by all the sirens and was justifiably concerned that I was somehow involved. So my mother decided to walk down the street to see what was going on. Her concern only heightened as she reached what must have been a very frightening scene for her to witness as mobs of police surrounded Greg. The police were taking turns beating on someone but whom? My mother attempted to get closer to see who was being beaten but the police demanded “Stay back this is a police matter.” To which my mother, god bless her soul, replied “I want to see if that is my son you have there.” To which the belligerent cop replied “If that is your son bitch then you should be ashamed of yourself! Now stand back before I arrest you too!” Unmoved my mother answered him “You just stop beating him right now! I don’t care whose son you have in there you should all be ashamed of yourself not me or his mother. You are all paid to protect us not abuse us.” When some of the other witnesses voiced their agreement with my mother’s position the police decided it best to stop beating Greg so they packed up their prisoner and left the scene….

    I was walking back from a friend’s apartment one afternoon when I next ran into Greg. Greg had just crossed Lankershim Blvd after stopping by our old Lankershim house. Noticing me walking towards him Greg called out “Hey Al, what’s happening? I just got out of County! I heard that you moved, where are you living now?” I replied “Man I was worried about you dude. Those pigs looked like they really fucked you up. I had hid on top of a house and could see them beating on you. I wanted to help you but what could I do.” It had been about 90 days since I had seen Greg and he somehow looked different. Now as I focused on his face I could see scaring on his face. He sensed what I was thinking and answered my questions before I asked them. “Yeah they broke my cheek bone, and knocked out most of my teeth. I had a bad concussion from their night sticks. You can see the scare here.” Greg pulled his hair apart at the scalp revealing a large scar that went from the top of his head onto his forehead and said. “I had to have plastic surgery to rebuild my cheek bone. I almost lost it that night man.” I replied “Those fucking bastards. It’s good to see you made it though man. Do you want to party?” Greg perked up and said “Damn straight homes.” Greg threw his arm around my shoulder and we laughed as we caught up with each other’s lives on the way back to my family’s new apartment….

    The evening was a bit warm so we sat on the front porch to avoid pissing off my mother as we smoked a joint. After finishing the joint we continued shooting the shit and cutting up when suddenly a cop car screeched to stop only ten feet from us on Cohasset Street.
    The police were now riding four to a car due to the gang activity in the area. Today we would say they were dressed like a Swat team with black helmets and protective vests. They immediately illuminated us with the vehicles spot light and called out over their loud speaker for us to “Freeze right where you are!” One called in their position, as another held a shotgun on us from behind the squad car. They ordered us to “Turn around and place your hands on your heads.” We complied and then they said “Remain silent and facing the wall! Do not attempt to move or speak!” We could hear one officer swing wide behind us and we sensed that his weapon was pointing at us. Then the others approached and surrounded us. One of the officers pushed me forward demanding that I “Lean forward and place your hands on the wall.” I complied then he said “Spread your legs apart!” as he swatted left and right between my legs with his night stick. When my legs were extended as far as they would possibly go the officer ran the stick up between my legs tapping me intentionally in the testicles. I let out a painful moan as he demanded “Don’t move or I will make sure that you are never able to make another bastard like you in the future. What are you all doing out here? Don’t you know there is a curfew for punks like you?” All this time the officer was going though all my pockets and patting me down. Still in pain I replied in a high pitch voice “My brother and I live here and our friends here are over 18.” The officer apparently didn’t believe my story and said “So you live here huh? Well let’s see about that.” The officer knocked on our front door and my mother soon answered. The officer asked “Do you know this boy?” pointing at me. My mother answered “He is my son why? What has he done?” The officer unwilling to admit his mistake “Are you sure this is your son lady take a good look at him.” My mother a little agitated now answered “I think I know my own children.” Belligerently the officer said “Well then you should keep them indoors at this hour then.” My mother has always been a feisty lady, and she took offense to the man’s condescending tone and replied “Is it against the law to seek relief from the heat? You know we don’t have air conditioning inside the house don’t you?” Not wanting to push the officer too far she yelled at us “If these good officers are though with you guys then you need to get back inside! Are you though with them officer?” The officers looked at each other and they each replied one by one “My guy is clean.” The officers warned us “We will be keeping an eye out for you four. Listen to your mother and get back inside the house!” One by one we entered the house and closed the door.

    After once again being attacked by another bar’s patrons, this time professional weight lifters, my parole was violated and I was returned to the CYA’s most infamous institution and placed in the “Lodge” designated for the most violent wards at Preston. My crime was listed as disturbing the peace. When my brother Mike, who was with me that evening, was finally arrested I was placed on an adult prison bus and transported back down to L.A. to testify.

    The buses last stop was the L.A. County Jail in downtown L.A. While waiting for my ride to Juvenile Hall I noticed several officers scrambling to a room where a man that resembled “Odd Job” from the “007” movies was held up in a corner rebuffing their attempts to remove him. The man knew some kind of marshal arts and he was not budging from the corner of the room. One after another the officers were beaten back nursing injured arms or knees in their effort to subdue the prisoner. Finally the officer in charge came down and asked “What the hell is going on?” What crime has this man committed?” An officer said “He is a driver for a foreign diplomat that has outstanding warrants for parking tickets. He doesn’t understand English and he won’t submit to being booked.” To which the officer in command replied “Hell turn him lose then before we have an international incident on our hands and half of my officers are out on convalescence leave.”

    This was a thrill for all of the inmates in the area to witness, most of which had by now grown accustomed to having officer’s man handle inmates. Like a losing teams first real win it was a happy time in the surrounding cells. So it was with a large grin that I left my cell and entered the squad car for my trip to the Los Angeles’s Central Juvenile Hall.

    I can tell you first hand that L.A. law enforcement is the most violent gang in the city bare none. When they pulled up my knees buckled. And I was surrounded by street gangs all my teenage years but only the police scared me. I knew many gang members in the Valley but I never joined one.

  • Every large jail or prison is susceptible to these allegations or symptoms of neglect, abuse and in some rare occasions, torture. It is the mentality of the upper echelon and their enforcement of their moral values that determine three things: the integrity of investigating the complaints, the depth and quality of the investigation and the final review to determine actual ethical dispositions of all allegations reviewed by an ethical person qualified in the task of reviewing proper use of force incidents with reason for aggravating or mitigating circumstances in each case, the actual force applied for the reasons of self-defense, defense of others and amount of force used necessary to regain control; have the KSA in jail or prison policy and procedures and thorough investigative skills with no pre-determined disposition on each case. The ultimate and most important value is the ability and determination by the chief person in charge to determine reasonable or justified levels of inappropriateness if found to be the case, the appropriate violations either federal, state or county statutes and policies, the appropriate sanction applied for each count of a positive finding and the reasonable disposition to determine whether termination or dismissal is in order and not be afraid to make such a decision under political duress and free from political pressures.

  • I never thought I would be so grateful for the work of the ACLU. Let justice reign.

  • Toxic Conditions inside prisons that breeds abuse, torture, contempt and neglect
    There is no doubt that when we heard about the widespread abuses that occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the entire world was upset and downright outraged that such atrocities happened under the careful eyes of our military forces stationed there in Iraq. Revelations and countless stories of abuse and torture methods being used inside of U.S. prisons range from Guantanamo Bay to Pelican Bay as we deal with the swelling mass incarceration policies of the United States. Our own society, condemning those countries such as Mexico, Libya and other third world countries known to have horrendous prison conditions are now in denial that it is happening here right in our own back yard as we speak. Being in denial has its advantages as it discourages telling the truth or dealing with the problem. In a most political correct world today, we can justify this denial by saying that abuse is merely mistreatment and that it happens all the time marginalizing its impact on human beings.
    The fact is not too many people know the difference between abuse, torture and negligence as they all lump it together as a kind of behavior that happens somewhere else but not in their home, their family or their neighborhood. Not distinguishing the difference between abuse and neglect is the first step to apathy of the problem. Many feel that neglect means the failure to keep someone from being harmed or hurt. Thus creates a mental picture of someone just standing there doing nothing while someone is getting physically, psychologically, sexually, financially or spiritually harmed. Again with many in society marginalizing this behavior allow or condones the practice of abuse to occur as they don’t stop to think and realize that a person who is neglecting someone or contributes this behavior towards an individual can indeed be abusive at the same time.
    In a politically corrected charged world we live in we can often say that “Abuse doesn’t sound as bad as torture” and minimize these acts through silence or cultural indifferences. When one thing leads to another and the awareness level has risen to higher level one might say something like “I would think torture might be considered any level of abuse placed on an unwilling captive, who has no means to mitigate the treatment.” So after it is all said and done, we have justified the desensitization of our feelings and exclaim loudly that “torture is being rebranded and reintroduced as “abuse”. It’s less offensive and a testament to our collective love of a softened toned language.”
    Prison officials are charged with custodial responsibilities or standards of care. This involves the security aspect of keeping them in a safe and orderly environment, providing them medical and mental health care and the basic needs to be fed, clothed and taken care of that do not reflect maltreatment of a person. They are after all is said and done, still people.
    Herein lays a progression of acts condoned by three symptoms of the prison system that nobody wants to address or admit to be truth. The first is the culture that drives the mentality of the prison system on both sides. Each culture lives by a “code” and follows the code regardless as violations can end up in death for many cases or permanent removal from the environment. This code is conveyed and managed by the administration and its own moral compass on the matter. The second is the absence of empathy and it is replaced with apathy. This is reinforced by the acceptance of policy failures and the lack of concern to correct the problems at all ends. The needs of the prisoners now become marginalized to the level of if so determined by the individual rather than what is written in policies. The third and final symptom is the desensitization of their feelings and emotions. Becoming numb to the environment has created the perfect conditions for torture. Through repetitive exposures to neglect and abuse, both staff and inmates become disengaged about the problem and ignore remedies to fix them with the justification that “it’s not my problem.”
    The definition of torture is the “anguish of body or mind [or both] – the infliction of intense pain, to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure. One can instantly see the escalation of acts that are both abusive and neglectful of the environments rules and regulations.
    Taking excerpts out of some articles written on abuse it says that “Physical abuse is when a person hits, slams, pulls hair, harms by the use of weaponry, murder, bites or burns etc.” It goes on to describe the neglect part by stating “whereas physical neglect is failure or delay to provide healthcare, abandonment and expulsion. Neglect also includes leaving a person or prisoner under inadequate supervision, nutrition, hygiene and clothing, and as well as in regards to safety and welfare.” Sexual abuse includes forced or unwanted sexual contact and harassment, and verbal abuse includes insult, blames and threats etc. Spiritually, a person is abused when he is deliberately prevented from following his beliefs and religious practices, and financial abuse means to steal, withhold money, or prevent access to employment and financial information around the household. Psychological neglect is also different from psychological abuse, as neglecting a person means delaying or refusing to provide physiological care to a person, and allowing abusive behaviors. Emotional abuse is inadequate emotional as well as physical care, isolation, withholding care and love etc.”
    Finally, the behavior of contempt takes over the workplace and you have culture that is now in total disrespect for the rules of the establishment and will disobedience to follow such rules. Again this principle or lack of value in this case happens to both sides of the prison population; the prisoners are in contempt of institutional, civilization and society’s rules and the staff are in contempt of federal and state statutes, rules and regulations and moral conduct sworn to uphold under oath.
    Large jails such as the LA County jails suffer the same symptomatic failures in their work place as prisons do thus just as fallible to this problem.
    Difference Between Abuse and Neglect | Difference Between | Abuse vs. Neglect http://www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-abuse-and-neglect/#ixzz1ZLhPeOrD

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