LA County supervisors discuss proposals to replace Men’s Central Jail (Charts)

Men's Central Jail is located in downtown Los Angeles and run by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
Men's Central Jail is located in downtown Los Angeles and run by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
Erika Aguilar

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday discussed possible replacements for the crumbling Men’s Central Jail in Downtown L.A.

Vanir Construction, a contractor hired to assess the county’s jail needs, presented the board with five options. All of them involve tearing down the structure and building a new facility for inmates with mental health needs.

Mark Anthony Johnson was among dozens of protesters who spoke at the meeting. He summed up a common sentiment amongst them to the board. 

“The underlying message of this proposal, what it sends to Black and Brown communities, which is the majority of people housed in L.A.’s county jails, is that the solution to mental health is a jail cell," Johnson said.

Speakers asked supervisors to look into alternatives to incarceration, like providing mental health services in the community and releasing more people awaiting their trial dates.

Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald said her department wants to find alternatives to locking people up. But a jail is still necessary because the alternatives will not reduce the population by thousands, she said. 

“It’s not going to mitigate the closure of men’s central jail, even half of men’s central jail," McDonald said.

All of L.A.’s county supervisors have said some kind of new construction will be needed – but some were more hesitant about the size of the proposed projects and the price, which ranges from $1.3 to $1.6 billion.

“The cost is giving me some sticker shock," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was most critical of the plans. 

He said the county will need to put serious money into more effectively housing its inmates with mental health needs. However, he said more research is needed on whether the county can shrink its jail population without hurting public safety.

The five options proposed by Vanir are listed below, along with charts that detail the impact of each proposal on the county's jail population and budget. A key to abbreviations follows the document.

LA County Jail Options

Key to Abbreviations Used: