The recent declaration by Department of Corrections officials that they intend to build a 1,750-bed prison near downtown Los Angeles is arrogant and premature. While I do not oppose a prison in Los Angeles County, there are good reasons why the prison should be built elsewhere.
The proposed site is only one mile from neighborhoods in Boyle Heights that have been settled for decades. Furthermore, Boyle Heights, one of the poorest and most densely populated areas in the city, is already ringed by detention facilities. More than 11,000 jail inmates (25% of the state’s jail population) are currently housed within four miles of the site.
Two jails, the Men’s Central and the Sybil Brand Institute for Women, are the largest of their respective types in the United States. Federal authorities are also considering a 550-bed prison at Alameda and Aliso streets.
No area in the county can say that it is more heavily impacted by detention facilities than East Los Angeles. We are bearing our share of social responsibility.
As a just solution, I have proposed Assembly Bill 2547, which would prohibit the Department of Corrections from constructing a prison within 10 miles of areas that are impacted by jails that collectively house more than 9,000 inmates. I am also working to ensure that prison officials hold new public hearings and that area businesses and residents receive sufficient notice.
East Los Angeles has received poor treatment in the past. Five major freeways have fragmented our neighborhoods, paving 10% of lands that could site desperately needed housing and bringing noise and pollution. It is ironic that as educators plead for funds to build schools for our children in the Eastside, the state finds no problem housing criminals next door. And as we seek to raise the horizons of our youth, they are offered jobs cleaning prison cells.
It is time we demand a fair sharing of the social burden. The Department of Corrections should seek a site for the prison in an area of the county that is less impacted by detention facilities.