LOS ANGELES – The much anticipated review and report on the proposed Los Angeles County Jail Plan was released late Friday and raises several concerns about the direction of County policy and spending on incarceration. The report, developed by Vanir Construction Management, lists five options ranging in cost from $1.3 billion to over $1.6 billion. All of the plans center on the demolition and rebuilding of Men’s Central Jail over a 10-year period.
Peter Eliasberg, ACLU of Southern California Legal Director, concludes that, “The report’s sole focus on rebuilding facilities misses the substantial opportunity we have to reduce costs and improve public safety for Los Angeles communities through proven alternatives to custody.”
Critical opportunities for expansion of split sentencing and work release programs – both of which have proven successful in other California jurisdictions – remain dramatically under-utilized in Los Angeles. The Vanir report notes that, “The options presented for Board consideration are not reliant on certain levels of participation in alternative programs to house the inmate population [which could create] additional capacity.” The failure to fully consider the impact of such programs creates a fundamental flaw in the conclusions drawn from the report’s inmate population projections.
A reduction in the projected inmate population by over 3000 inmates could be achieved through pretrial supervision and re-entry programs already contemplated by the LASD, combined with more modest modifications to existing facilities. Additional efforts for the diversion of mentally ill offenders with nonviolent charges and appropriate treatment options would further reduce this population. Such strategies could in fact allow for the closure of the Men’s Central Jail within the next year or two rather than rebuilding it for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Pursuing and providing alternatives to incarceration will not only improve the efficacy of our jail system, but also reduce recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars for decades to come.