A proposal to depopulate the County’s main jail facility has been pulled from the County Supervisors agenda following significant pushback.
The plan, spearheaded by Councy Supervisor Hilda Solis, asked to declare the state of mental health services and overcrowding at the facility a humanitarian crisis. It would have prioritized reducing the number of individuals entering the system and released some inmates. Supervisor Lindsay Horvath had joined the proposal as a cosponsor but discussion was pulled from the agenda after a surge in community interest in the idea.
In a statement, Solis said the county justice system is subject to numerous layers of oversight that are expensive and basic compliance with regulations is becoming difficult as the population grows. She said no one agency can unilaterally close the jail but the County has a responsibility to act.
“I introduced the motion on ‘Los Angeles County to Take Actionable Next Steps to Depopulate and Decarcerate the Los Angeles County Jails’ as a way to strike a balance with both justice-involved advocates and public safety representatives. Additionally, with the federal consent decrees and settlement agreements, including a potential receivership from the State, I felt this move was necessary,” she said.
Solis said she proposed an increase in electronic monitoring over incercation, reduced or eliminated bail for many inmates, transfer of inmates to state facilities where appropriate and increased compassionate release for medically fragile inmates.
“Nonetheless, since the motion was published, my office has received concerns from a variety of stakeholders — those who feel the motion is not doing enough and those who feel it is doing too much. To that end, I will be referring the motion back to my office so that I can continue to gather input from all stakeholders. We must help balance the needs of public safety while also getting into compliance with our federal obligations. And in that process, I ask that County departments and agencies help us with meeting the need of our most vulnerable,” she said.
Some of those concerns came from her fellow supervisors.
“This board has taken steps to divert people from our jails safely, but Men’s Central Jail continues to overcrowded and dangerous for both our inmates and our deputies,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “That being said, I have concerns with this proposal and its potential impact on public safety, and I cannot support it. Any plan to reduce the population of our jails needs to be decided in partnership with law enforcement, our deputy district attorneys, and our courts. I understand that my colleague plans to pull this item from the agenda and I think that is the right decision.”
The California Contract Cities Association (CCCA) also expressed concern over the proposal saying the action had the potential to adversely impact public safety in Los Angeles County.
“CCCA has learned the item will be pulled from the April 4th agenda and applauds this action as a step in the right direction to give impacted communities and stakeholders an opportunity to engage in conversations on how to mitigate risks to public safety and to provide adequate rehabilitative services to those in need,” they said.
The main jail has been a source of growing controversy for years with critics saying the facility lacks basic safety systems and is overwhelmed by a mental health crisis among inmates. Judicial reform activists have protested at Supervisor’s meetings in recent weeks asking for the facility to be completely closed and there have been significant concerns about other parts of the judicial system, including the county’s probation services.
Solis made no mention of a timeline for reintroducing the measure.