Downtown Los Angeles Men's Jail to be Replaced by Mental Hospital
County Board of Supervisors to Replace 1963 Jail with Mental Health Facility
February 25, 2019
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday, February 12, to change a plan to rebuild the Men's Central Jail into a plan to build at least one mental health treatment facility.
The original $2.2 billion proposal, changed on Tuesday, was to tear down the 1963 Men's Central Jail and build a rehabilitation-focused center called the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility on the old building's footprint. This facility was supposed to house 3,885 "inmate patients." The project has been in progress since 2015.
The new plan does not specify how many people the structure would house, a factor that, in part, led Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuhl to oppose the idea. The two argued that the current contract might not allow the county the flexibility to build a smaller, more manageable facility, and the end result would be a very large building which would house thousands of patients/inmates. They believed such a large, centralized structure could conceivably house more than all of the county hospitals combined. The largest mental health facility currently run by the government in California houses 1,500 patients.
But supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas disagreed, saying the revised proposal could allow the flexibility to build a smaller structure on the downtown site and possibly other, even smaller mental health centers elsewhere.
In order to ensure the facility changes in nature from punitive to treatment, the supervisors voted for a provision calling for the Department of Health Services to run the place, rather than the Sheriff's Department. "Sheriff's deputies will never receive enough training to become mental health professionals, nor should they," said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored the proposal. She added that the ultimate goal is to move inmates from the facility to community-based care.
Over a hundred activists showed up to oppose the building of any facility whatsoever. They advocated putting the money into reentry programs, supportive housing, community-based services, and other programs. Eunisses Hernandez of JustLeadershipUSA, an organization dedicated to reducing the population in jails, called the newly proposed facility "a jail with a bow on it."
Supervisor Solis, one of the two no-votes, agreed, saying "It's still a jail. It's still walls. It's still preventing people from having freedom, the possibility even of rehabilitation."