The Los Angeles Police Department’s gleaming, new $70 million Metropolitan Detention Center sits empty because of the city’s fiscal crisis, reports the Los Angeles Times. The department spared little expense four years ago when it built the 172,000-square-foot, five-floor structure that is one of the largest of its kind. It’s wired with video cameras and has automated security doors and electronic fingerprinting stations. To monitor inmates and cut down on overcrowding, the jail is divided into secure wings that are flooded with sunlight from skylights and kept cool by a centralized air conditioner. Sound-dampening panels hang from the ceiling because studies show a quiet jail is a peaceful jail.
The department is unable to hire jailers to run the large, labor-intensive facility. Police are desperate to vacate a dilapidated, overcrowded downtown jail that the new one is meant to replace. Its options “are not good options,” commander Scott Kroeber told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. “These are going to be difficult times.” The police department operates 10 jails; for the 120,000 people arrested and booked into custody each year in Los Angeles, the jails are the way station where they must wait for arraignment. Typically the stay is a few days, but can last as long as six during holiday weekends.