L.A. County wins grant to reduce jail population

Los Angeles County is among 20 government entities to get grant aimed at lowering the number of people in jail

Los Angeles County is among 20 government entities -- including cities, counties and one state -- that won a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation aimed at reducing jail populations.

Nearly 200 government entities competed for the grants, which are part of a $75-million initiative by the foundation to reduce incarceration.

Other winners include the cities of New York and New Orleans; counties in Illinois, Arizona and Wisconsin; and the state of Connecticut.

The initial grant of $150,000 will help the jurisdictions come up with plans to reduce the number of people in jail. Ten of the winners will get additional grants of $500,000 to $2 million a year to help implement the plans.

In Los Angeles County, sheriff's Cmdr. Jody Sharp said her agency will work with officials from the district attorney's and public defender's offices, the county probation department and the Los Angeles Police Department to develop a plan over the next six months.

Among other issues, she said, the group will look at people who are jailed while awaiting trial and at-risk assessment systems that could help law enforcement decide which inmates to release.

"We're going to look at everything from start to finish to see what's working and what isn't working," she said.

Although jail populations are down in the county since the implementation of Proposition 47, which reduced many drug and property felony crimes to misdemeanors, the jail system remains overcrowded.

"What we're doing is not working," Sharp said. "Proposition 47 did give us a little dip in our population, but the same people are still coming back to jail."

The news of the grant comes as the Board of Supervisors prepares to revisit the county's plans to rebuild the aging Men's Central Jail downtown and create a new women's jail at the now-vacant Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, to replace the overcrowded women's jail in Lynwood.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

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