Foes of jail construction plan protest in downtown L.A.

About two dozen demonstrators interrupted the Board of Supervisors meeting inside the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration on Tuesday to protest a jail construction plan in the county.

The activists, bound together by gray plastic shackles, stood up and started speaking over the supervisors, asking them to declare a moratorium on the jail project.

Police escorted the activists out of the building.

Afterward, board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas closed the meeting to the public.

The activists, led by Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition and two other anti-incarceration groups, then stood outside the building and chanted “it is our duty to fight for freedom” and held up signs that read “stop incarceration.”

Later, they marched to the Men’s Central Jail, where they formed a circle by linking arms.

Mariella Saba, an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, asked the group to say out loud the names of incarcerated people whom they knew.

”I believe that we will win,” she declared to the protesters.

McGill said many of the activists have had family members incarcerated or have been incarcerated themselves.

One of the demonstrators, Dayvon Williams, 27, said he is part of the campaign because he believes funds could be better spent on initiatives inside the community to help prevent incarceration.

“Just because you rebuild a jail doesn’t mean that the way you’re treated in the jail will change,” Williams said.

Williams said he was jailed and convicted of burglary charges when he was 18.

Many of the activists have been protesting the construction of two new county jails for months.

Though the design has not been finalized, the county is expected to spend $2 billion to build a 3,885-bed replacement for the downtown Men’s Central Jail.

The new facility will house both male and female inmates. Proponents of the new jail say it is intended to address the mental and physical health needs of inmates who will be housed there.

Around 70% of the inmate population at Men’s Central Jail reported a mental or medical illness upon initial assessment.

An environmental impact report, released this month, found the replacement for the Men’s Central Jail would not affect the environment in any significant way if its recommendations were implemented.

The other jail is the vacant Mira Loma Detention Center, a women’s facility in Lancaster.

The city plans to turn that into a 1,600-bed women’s facility.

Activists argue that building a women’s facility in Lancaster would make it difficult for families to visit and estimate that the two jails could cost $3.5 billion.

melissa.etehad@latimes.com

Twitter: @melissaetehad


UPDATES:

3:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information about the protest as well as comments from demonstrators.

This article originally published at 1 p.m.

An earlier version of this article referred to the replacement plan for L.A. County jails as an expansion. In fact, the plan will result in fewer beds than are in use at the existing facilities.
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