Should L.A. Spend More Money On Failing Jail System?


With a huge jail system that shuffles repeat offenders through custody and fails to supply adequate medical care to many inmates, Los Angeles County officials say the sheriff should manage jails better; the sheriff said the problems are bigger than he can control, reports the Los Angeles Times. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says the county should replace Men’s Central Jail, an antiquated and overflowing facility. Cost estimates top $1 billion, and the county does not have that money to spend, he said.

The county is spending $435 million to pay for 7,790 additional beds and is adding $10 million a year for four years to jail medical services. Still, Los Angeles County, with the nation’s largest jail system, spends about half as much per inmate as New York City, a figure Sheriff Lee Baca calls “troublesome to me.” Efforts to improve communication between jailers and parole, probation and police officers are largely nonexistent, Baca said. “California has pretty well bargained away its future in public safety,” he added. “Management is not going to solve that problem.” Supervisor Mike Antonovich identifies illegal immigration as the central culprit, arguing that if the cost of incarcerating those inmates could be eliminated, the county would save hundreds of millions of dollars. In recent years, the sheriff has let most inmates out early. Limiting such releases would exacerbate overcrowding and idleness, provoking disturbances and riots, says Merrick Bobb, who serves as special counsel to the board on the Sheriff’s Department.


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