LOS ANGELES COUNTY – In casting the lone dissenting vote against a motion to scrap the design-build contract for a state-of-the-art jail, Supervisor Kathryn Barger said the action was a step backwards in the County’s effort to replace the aging and obsolete Men’s Central Jail.
The contract terminated today was based on a study conducted by Health Management Associates (HMA) and took into account ongoing activities in Los Angeles County to increase diversion and further the development of linkages with community services. Even with these robust diversion efforts, HMA projected a need for a mental health facility consisting of 6,700 beds. With the rise we have seen since this study was commissioned, it is clear that we have exceeded those projections and are in need of a new facility.
Without a plan for replacing the outdated Men’s Central Jail facility, the County is choosing to maintain the status quo. One-third of the County’s jail population has mental illness. The Office of Diversion and Reentry has estimated that they can potentially divert 56% of those mentally ill based on their offenses and their prospective threat to public safety. Today’s decision does not provide any relief or support to our existing inmate population or the staff who work there.
“The Office of Diversion and Reentry has done a good job of working with the justice partners to safely divert significant number of inmates from our county facilities. However, based on the current and projected numbers, there is a need for additional capacity,” Barger said. “We have heard from our contract cities and from our crime survivor community that returning to the drawing board only kicks the can down the road for improvements to rehabilitation.”
Over a decade and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to develop the jail plan that was rejected today. A new plan will take another four to five years and cost taxpayers additional millions of dollars. Inmates in jail have a constitutional right to mental health services – the new jail was designed to provide safe and effective programming space.