For years, the Los Angeles County jail has been a revolving door for the vast majority of its female inmates, many of whom are homeless, poorly educated and struggling with substance abuse, according a watchdog’s report released Wednesday. The findings in the report provide the most detailed examination yet of women in the nation’s largest women’s jail, reports the Los Angeles Times. According to a survey of inmates, 81% of women in custody had already served time behind bars — most of them in Los Angeles County.
The report predicted that most of the inmates would be arrested again. “For [the] first time . . . in real detail we know who these female inmates are,” Merrick Bobb, special counsel to the county supervisors, wrote in his semiannual report on the Sheriff’s Department, which operates the jails. “It raises real questions about the need to end this recidivism.” Bobb surveyed 330 female inmates in September and found that 45% were on probation and 22% were on parole at the time of their arrests. Nearly six in 10 had a history of substance abuse, and slightly more than half were unemployed or disabled when they were arrested. The inmates were disproportionately African American — 43% of the jail population compared with 10% in the county. Most inmates were single women with children under age 18. Most were awaiting trial and could not afford the bail to get out.