On March 30th, JusticeLA held a press conference and rally commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Men’s Central Jail Closure Report. Hundreds of community members gathered in front of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration to demand a timeline for the closure of Men’s Central Jail, and tangible and significant investments in alternatives to incarceration. Echoing back the Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) own rhetoric of urgency, civil rights leaders, organizers, formerly incarcerated people and their families reminded the county of their promises and exposed their inaction.
In response to the press conference, the county and Supervisor Solis’ office issued a statement claiming they could not commit to a timeline for closure because it is, “crucial to proceed methodically to ensure support systems are firmly in place to ensure public safety [and] avoid worsening the homelessness crisis.” However, community and numerous county workgroups for years have called on the county to invest in specific numbers and types of support and residential mental health treatment beds that would decrease the jail population and facilitate closure. To date, the county has not acted methodically but instead negligently. By dragging their feet and proceeding without urgency, the BOS and CEO have effectively trapped people in jail because the county refuses to put support systems in place that would encourage releases from jail.
The county’s statement is telling. The county would rather hide away its houselessness and mental health crises behind jail walls, continuing to torture our most vulnerable in a dilapidated jail where the County has been violating the constitutional rights of people with mental illness for more than 25 years, rather than expedite their release and risk exposing the breadth of these crises.