L.A. Supes Abandon New Mental Health Jail

A nearly $2 billion mental health treatment center for jail inmates has been scrapped by L.A. County leaders after protests from criminal justice reform advocates.

For years, advocates have called for greater mental health resources for L.A.’s inmate population, so replacing the aging Men’s Central Jail with a facility focused on mental health initially seemed like a good idea.

But when push came to shove, all critics saw was another jail.

“Men’s Central Jail must be demolished, but we must replace it within a criminal justice system that includes a modern, decentralized countywide continuum of non-custody community-based care facilities,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, who authored the motion with Sheila Kuehl. She and other critics of the plan want the county to focus on ways they can keep mentally ill inmates out of custody entirely. According to a county report, some 56% of inmates with serious mental illness could be placed in community-based diversion programs.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva called the board’s actions irresponsible.

Cancelling the contract “would leave high security inmates who are housed in single cells without a place to stay,” Villanueva said. “This is a public safety issue and should something awful happen to a member of our community, it lies directly with the Board of Supervisor’s action taken today.”

The vote to cancel the project was 4-1 with Kathryn Barger dissenting. It followed protests attended by hundreds of activists.


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