LA County Votes to Initiate Plan to Close Men’s Central Jail Within the Year
In a 4-0 vote, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided to look into closing a jail in downtown Los Angeles. The fifth supervisor did not respond to the roll call for the vote. The vote opens the door to developing a plan to shut down the Men’s Central Jail within one year.
Proponents of the move believe that the Board is taking another step to promote economic and racial justice. Supervisor Hilda Solis referred to the vote as another way that LA County is prioritizing its “Care First, Jails Last” approach to the judicial system. Supervisor Kathryn Barger was clear that her vote to gather information was not in support of closing the men’s jail.
Opponents claim that releasing criminals back into the community is dangerous. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a tweet that the victims of crimes are the most vulnerable population in Los Angeles, not the criminal offenders that the Board believes to be vulnerable.
A year ago, the Board decided not to replace the jail, even though it is 57 years old and decaying. With this new move, the Board now looks to focus on the mental health needs of people instead of building a new jail. The county continues to search for alternatives to incarceration, especially given the recent events related to police reform.
A study earlier this year found that more than 60 percent of inmates in county jails with mental illness could be eligible for diversion if there were facilities that could provide the supportive care the inmates require. Instead of focusing on locking someone in a cell, the system would focus on ending a cycle of “arrest, homelessness, and recidivism.”
It is important to note that the plan does not include the mass release of all inmates. Violent offenders could transfer to other jails within the Los Angeles justice system.
The Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department operates the Men’s Central Jail (MCJ), which is on Bauchet Street in downtown Los Angeles. The facility houses male inmates only. The jail can house approximately 5,640 inmates at one time.
Inmates in the MCJ are charged with a variety of crimes, including but not limited to:
The jail houses inmates of all security levels, including high-security inmates and inmates in the general population. Individuals who are convicted and sentenced to county jail are housed at the MCJ.
If you are arrested, you may be housed in the MCJ until you can post bail, or you are released on an O.R. order (own recognizance). Inmates who did not make bail are housed in the MCJ while they wait for their trial or their case to be resolved.
In-person visitation has been suspended until further notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Family and friends who have someone housed in the MCJ can continue to check the website or the facility to determine when in-person visitation may be reinstated.
How Can You Avoid Going to the Men’s Central Jail?
You do not have a choice where the county holds you after an arrest. However, you do have a choice in how you handle your arrest.
Talking to the police can make matters worse. It can be difficult, but try to remain calm. Think about what you say before you say it.
You need to exercise your two basic rights after being arrested to protect yourself:
- Remain Silent – You are not required to answer questions or make statements. Police officers cannot “do” anything for you or make you promise if you answer questions. Stay quiet except for exercising your second right.
- Ask for a Lawyer – You have the right to have an attorney present during all questioning. You have the right to consult with a criminal defense lawyer and have a lawyer represent you in court. Make sure you ask for an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.
Remember, being arrested may feel as if you are already convicted of a crime, but you are innocent until proven guilty. The state must prove each legal element of the crime beyond a shadow of a doubt to obtain a conviction. Consulting with a criminal defense lawyer is the best way to protect yourself.
An attorney reviews your case to determine anyone violated your legal rights during the investigation or the arrest. If so, a violation of your legal rights might give you a defense that can be used to have your criminal charge dismissed.
Your lawyer also reviews the prosecution’s case for weaknesses or “holes” that the attorney can use as part of your defense. Creating doubt can be a valuable defense strategy. A defense attorney is skilled in identifying the strategy to use to create your defense, given the facts and circumstances in your case.