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Does LA County Need a Rebuilt Men's Central Jail Downtown?

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Last week, an Urban Land Institute panel said that, with a little effort, the area around Union Station could be a major Downtown destination. One of their top recommendations was to get rid of the jails taking up potentially valuable space northeast of the station. Back in October, County Sheriff Lee Baca presented a plan to tear down the Men's Central Jail and rebuild it as three ten-story towers, which would cost about $1.2 billion. Now the LA Daily News reports that Baca is working on a slightly scaled-back plan that would include only the demolition of the "old side" of the MCJ; he thinks that'll save "$300 million to $400 million." Either way, "it would be Los Angeles County government's largest building project in history by far."

But the ACLU says the County doesn't need any MCJ at all. Next month, they'll present findings from an independent study showing that the jail can be closed "by releasing low-level inmates and supervising them using ankle bracelets instead." Their legal director says an inmate costs the County about $77 per day; someone monitored by ankle bracelet would cost about $15 to $25 a day.

The MCJ has two buildings--the old one was built in 1963 and the new one dates to 1976. What's wrong with the old joint? Besides the linear layout, which makes it difficult to keep an eye on inmates, one sergeant says the plumbing is a mess: "Pipes break, and it's not unusual to see water coming out of the ceiling." The cell toilets "occasionally flood," and inmates have to be taken out while it's dealt with. Image via BailBondsLosAngelesCounty.com
· Upkeep is proving costly as Men's Central Jail shows its age [LADN]
· ULI Panel Thinks Union Station Can Anchor the Next South Park [Curbed LA]