LA County Officials Delay Jail Plan

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Jail Plan — a major effort to replace the Men’s Central Jail with the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Center and to renovate the Mira Loma Detention Facility — was delayed on June 9. While Los Angeles County officials unveiled the Men’s Central Jail plan at the June 9 meeting, they also voted to halt work on all pending jail projects for 45 days while reassessing the number of beds needed at the new facility.

Last year, the board voted to move forward with the $2 billion Men’s Central Jail replacement plan, which would include a new two-tower, 4,860-bed jail, designed to house high-security inmates with mental health and other medical or substance-abuse issues. The county has paid about $6 million to contractor AECOM, headquartered in Los Angeles, for work on the jail thus far, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Although a majority of county officials agree that the facility is operating under poor conditions and that the facility must be replaced, they disagree about the size. Some advocates who want to reduce incarceration rates asked the board to downsize the jail plan, especially since Proposition 47 reduced the sentences for many drug and property crimes.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas proposed to halt the planning for 45 days so that the county can look more carefully at how it can divert more low-level offenders, especially those with mental health issues, from jail, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The jail’s population, like several California jails, grew from 14,000 in mid-2011 to 19,000 after the passage of AB 109 or the Public Safety Realignment Act. Then after the passage of Proposition 47 last year, the numbers have significantly decreased to about 17,000, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Local advocacy groups and representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, who have pushed to stall the jail plan, wrote in a letter to the board, “It is hard to imagine anything more wasteful and more harmful to the county’s long-term economic health than investing billions of dollars in jail facilities that will be underutilized.”

Sheriff’s officials, however, believe delays could jeopardize state funding for Los Angeles County, especially $100 million for a new women’s jail at the now-vacant Mira Loma Detention Center, intended to replace the current overcrowded women’s facility in Lynwood.

Motions to suspend work at both Men’s Central Jail and Mira Loma for 45 days passed three to two.