Opinion

Letters: L.A. County jail failures

HealthAmerican Civil Liberties Union

Re "More than one way on jails," Editorial, Dec. 4

We agree that L.A. County's failure to implement a reasonable pretrial release program and its meager use of split sentencing disqualify it from state funding to build new jails. However, your editorial left out another way the county continues to keep too many people in jail with no public safety benefit.

Thousands of jail inmates have severe mental health problems, and many of them are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. The recidivism rate for these inmates is staggeringly high. Worse still, at least eight inmates with mental illness have committed suicide in jail this year.

The failed practice of jailing the mentally ill has continued for years, even though diversion to community treatment is a better alternative for many people with mental illness. It costs less, results in better mental health outcomes and reduces recidivism.

L.A. County's failure to develop a significant diversion program is another reason it should not receive state money for jail construction.

Peter Eliasberg

Los Angeles

Paula Pearlman

Los Angeles

Eliasberg is the ACLU of Southern California's legal director; Pearlman is the Disability Rights Legal Center's executive director.

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