ACLU calls for closure of downtown LA jail

The American Civil Liberties Union today said Los Angeles County has failed to improve conditions at its downtown jail, and called on officials to close it down. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union today said Los Angeles County has failed to improve conditions at its downtown jail, and called on officials to close it down. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.

Frank Stoltze: The ACLU’s Mary Tiedemann says while the Sheriff’s Department has reduced the number of inmates at Men’s Central Jail, the downtown lockup remains overcrowded and often filthy.

Mary Tiedemann: I have seen cells with plumbing so backed up that the water pools on the floor, forcing the inmates to stay on their beds. The stench is rancid and rats scurry around where the detainees sleep.

Stoltze: An ACLU-commissioned report said conditions aggravate inmates’ mental health problems. The group pointed to the suicide of a 22-year-old man last month. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the death is under investigation. He conceded the jail needs fixing.

Steve Whitmore: The Men’s Central Jail has outlived its usefulness and what the sheriff and the board of supervisors are working together to try to do is to dismantle that jail.

Stoltze: But that’ll cost money the county doesn’t have. Instead of seeking federal funding for improving the jail, the sheriff is urging the board of supervisors to seek federal economic stimulus money to hire more deputies.

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