Los Angeles Men's Central Jail inmates live in squalid conditions

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald will be the first to tell you that the Men's Central Jail is filled with health code violations. (KABC)

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald will be the first to tell you that the Men's Central Jail is filled with health code violations.

For McDonnell, it's a maddening issue.

"You've got to provide a location that's humane. You've got to treat people as well as you can treat them. When you look at the environment we're in, ADA compliance, you know, all of those issues - this facility was built before all of those were in place," he said.

The jail was opened in 1963, a time when its duties were far different than they are today. It is old, broken down and has outgrown its use.

The clinic environment is crowded, there's no privacy and only limited medical equipment the health care workers can use.

It is a never-ending list of issues where solutions are hard to come by.

The air in the jail is stale and hot. The bathrooms are disgusting, and the water will not shut off. The toilets no longer work.

But while the facility falls way short in design, the staff finds ways to make it all work. They do the best they can and know people are dealing with personal and physical struggles in a tough place to live, McDonnell said.

The most important part of what is happening is that there is a new philosophy at the jail: once an inmate is out, they should not come back.

Classrooms are springing up wherever the jail staff can find space. There is one in the old cafeteria that is now helping men develop construction skills.

"My class is probably at full capacity," one teacher said. "I find it all rewarding that maybe we'll get some of these gentleman back into society so that they don't come back."

In another area, inmates recognize they need to do something to stop the cycle, so they find strength inside a chapel.

On the women's side of the prison, many inmates are emotional. They are given tough, but honest talks that help them deal with the ugliness of their past and the difficulties that will arise in the future.

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inmateslos angeles county sheriff's departmentexclusiveLos AngelesLos Angeles County
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