LA County Restarts Jail Construction, Plans for Reentry Facility

LOS ANGELES — On Aug. 11, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ordered staff to look into creating a $120 million Office of Diversion and Reentry and approved an amendment to restart construction of a 3,885-bed downtown Los Angeles jail as well as approved continued work on a new 1,604-bed women’s jail in Lancaster.

The board voted to restart the construction of the downtown Los Angeles Jail, called the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility, after work was halted in June to reassess the number of beds needed at the new facility. The Aug. 11 vote reduced the number of beds planned for the downtown jail by about 1,000 from the previous number of 4,860 beds.

The Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility would replace the overcrowded Men’s Central Jail, which was built in 1963. 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, 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.

The Los Angeles County jail system, which is the nation’s largest, has about 17,000 inmates. The new jail, expected to cost more than $1 billion, would be designed to house the estimated one in five inmates that have mental health or addiction issues. Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald, who oversees the jails, said that the 3,885-bed facility would still not provide enough space for all of the mentally ill inmates, reported the Associated Press.

As such, the county is looking into the creation of the Office of Diversion and Reentry, which would coordinate community treatment and housing programs for nonviolent mental offenders in an effort to keep them out of jail. The decision to pursue a treatment facility came about a week after allowing a federal court to oversee the county’s treatment of the mentally ill in jails.