In 2015, Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors approved a $2.3 billion plan for jail construction alone. Given all of the shifts in leadership, in jail construction plans, in mandated jail reduction policies and in growing community pressure, is LA really committed to building new jails and high levels of incarceration?

The proposed $2.3 billion jail plan consists of the refurbishment of Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster as a “Gender Responsive Jail” with over 1,600 beds for people designated as women. It also includes a facility that will replace Men’s Central Jail in downtown called a “Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility” (CCTF) with around 3,900-4,900-beds, mostly for people with mental health needs.

nomorejails-450Fortunately, there is still time to stop the jails. The jail plan still has to cross more hurdles at the state level to receive funding. The women’s jail has not gone through the full environmental review process, as mandated by state law. There are serious environmental concerns that need to be addressed. One of the most critical is the growing number of cases of valley fever in the Antelope Valley. Communities of color are more vulnerable to this disease which is  a fungal infection caused by spores in the dirt. Further, LA has not received state funding for the CCTF – so the county will be looking for more state jail construction funding this coming budget cycle or they will put in the general operating budget. Either way, LA County residents will bare the costs of a major jail expansion they do not want. 

It’s not all bad. The Board of Supervisors has also committed to the creation of an Office of Diversion and Reentry to divert about 1,000 people diagnosed with a mental illness from incarceration. There are also plans to create more housing options for people coming home from lock-up. This is on top of the three new mental health clinics being built,  steady jail population reduction through Prop. 47, split sentencing, and a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to reduce the jail population by 15-20%.

One thing that could be setting the LA County Sheriff’s Department up for their continued push towards building jails is the increased amount of money going towards hiring more deputies. In this past year’s budget alone there was $99.2 million added to the Sheriff’s Budget to address mental health needs in County jails, curb use of force in jails, continue the creation of diversion through in-custody treatment program, and  Americans with Disabilities Act compliance in County jails.

While this sounds good, most of the funding is going towards addition deputy positions resulting in hundreds of new positions for a total of 19,507 to be funded from the County General Fund. This is in the midst of people fighting for the minimum wage, lack of health care professionals, continued cases of police brutality, and our rising homeless population.

We know that the Sheriff’s Department will continue to push for the $2.3 billion jail plan. And we also know with continued pressure, a changing criminal justice landscape, and the fact that these jails would not be built until 10 years from now, there is still time. Time to push county leaders to move further towards investing money to expand community-based mental health services, re-entry support, adult education and substance use rehabilitation programs, instead of more jails.

Join us to demand that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors invest in community-based programs that keep people out of prisons and jails and minimize barriers to employment, education, and basic services that are needed when individual come home.

Let’s stop this reckless $2.3 billion jail plan!

What would you do for your community if you had $2 billion?
Would you build a jail?


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