In a surprise vote on Tuesday, Los Angeles County supervisors decided to move ahead with a 3,885-bed replacement for Men’s Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles.
The Board of Supervisors had put the original 4,800-bed replacement facility on hold while they studied ways to divert mentally ill out of the jail system. Supervisors have disagreed on how big the jail needs to be, but this appeared to be the magic number.
The vote came down 3–1, with Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sheila Kuehl and Mike Antonovich voting to move the jail plan forward and Supervisor Don Knabe, who called for a larger facility, voting no. Supervisor Hilda Solis, who called for a smaller jail, abstained.
Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, was skeptical of the need for the large jail.
“I’m not persuaded by what would justify the size,” he said.
He also criticized the board for taking up the controversial issue without first notifying the public.
“I think it’s a pretty clear violation of the Brown Act,” he said.
The board was not originally scheduled to take up the jail question–which in the past, has drawn in hundreds of speakers who oppose jail building. Originally, they were scheduled only to take up a proposal to fund programs that divert mentally ill out of jail.
That proposal, which puts $100 million towards jail diversion, also passed, with Knabe providing the sole vote against.
“This is real money that if used well can make an enormous difference in people’s lives,” Eliasberg said.