LOS ANGELES COUNTY —Supervisor Kathryn Barger opposed a motion voted on by the Board of Supervisors to declare it unnecessary to build a new county jail or custody facility and instead divert the most serious offenders from Men’s Central Jail to yet-to-be identified community-based treatment centers.

In her remarks, Supervisor Barger concurred that the current Men’s Central Jail is overrun and outdated and should be permanently closed. However, she expressed multiple concerns regarding the previous and anticipated data that recommends that the County open a new facility.

Last year, Supervisors Solis and Kuehl authored a motion asking for a comprehensive plan to close Men’s Central Jail so that the county can reduce incarceration. The L.A. County Auditor Controller requested this plan from Dr. James Austin and the JFI Institute. This report, which is data driven and includes substantive analysis and recommendations, is pending final issuance over the next couple of weeks.

“Today’s motion is a rushed effort in advance of the pending JFI report, which is based on data and analysis and provides thoughtful strategies regarding admissions; reduction in length of stay; utilization of an efficient administrative structure to depopulate 5,000 inmates; and a method to quickly increase the number of mental health beds while expanding Alternatives to Incarceration,” said Supervisor Barger. “Furthermore, this pending plan recognizes the special needs of this population and requirements for safe diversion.

“The proposal to close Men’s Central Jail without a replacement custody facility for those high-risk inmates who cannot be diverted but need intensive mental health services,” said Supervisor Barger. “These are individuals who need a significant amount of resources to ensure they are not a danger to themselves or to others.”

“We have a constitutional duty to provide services to those who are sentenced to County Jail. We are currently in a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in response to our ability to care for this population,” Supervisor Barger continued. “I am concerned that the DOJ will be critical of today’s decision to eliminate a replacement custody facility because we continue to fail our constitutional obligation.”

Over the last five years, the county has known that it needed to build 4,000 more beds but has yet to do so. Supervisor Barger questioned the county’s ability to now be able to build and service these beds within 24 months, especially considering the necessary overhaul of the county’s mental health, social and diversion services that will be required to accommodate these individuals.

Supervisor Barger also mentioned that the motion failed to consider the immediate need for Lanterman-Petris-Short Act mental health beds, as well as beds for the Felony Incompetent to Stand Trial patients, who the County may be responsible to handle on behalf of the state.

Supervisor Barger read in an alternative motion that would instead ask the Chief Executive Office to work with the Department of Mental Health, Alternatives to Incarceration, Department of Health Services Correctional Health Services and others to report back on a comprehensive plan that will identify timelines, locations, and financial resources necessary to build the community capacity for these individuals before the Board moves forward on the closure of Men’s Central Jail. Supervisor Barger further asked that the proposal include a plan to sequence the diversion of inmates as appropriate facilities ramp up in the community to provide quality care in a safe setting.

Supervisor Barger’s alternative motion was opposed by the Board of Supervisors, in favor of eliminating the only facility currently available to this population.

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