LA County drops plan for $2B jail in favor of mental health facility

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week abandoned years of planning to rebuild Men's Central Jail and voted 3-2 to rebuild it as at least one mental health facility. The author and co-author of the new plan appeared on Eyewitness Newsmakers. Supervisors Janice Hahn and Mark Ridley-Thomas talked about this landmark turning point for county incarceration.

Hahn said, "What we're doing is having a paradigm shift in how we treat people who come into the system with mental health challenges." Under the new proposal, prisoners will be moved to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

The Men's Central Jail will be torn down for the mental health facility, run by the Department of Health Services, with security provided by the Sheriff's Department. Supervisors predict it will be five to eight years before the project is completed.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl voted against the measure, saying it amounts to a mental health jail. The American Civil Liberties Union spoke in opposition, saying no one can get well in a 4,000-bed facility.

Hahn and Ridley-Thomas said the plans haven't been completed. They believe the new direction will work and the present system had to change. "I think the state of Men's Central Jail is nothing short of a violation of fundamental human rights of those individuals," said Ridley-Thomas, "call them inmates or patients, they're effectively both."
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