County Needs New Jail, Parents Say, but Not in Their City

Times Staff Writer

Orange County definitely needs a new jail, say parents in the severely overcrowded Santa Ana Unified School District, but not down the street from their children's schools.

"We don't want something like this in our town," said Esthela Lopez, whose two daughters attend Roosevelt Elementary School on South Halladay Street, northwest of one of the proposed sites at Grand and McFadden avenues. "But I really don't know where else it should go. I don't think any neighborhood will like it."

The school board has been scrambling to find ways to ease the overcrowded conditions, including searching for new school sites, putting schools on year-round status and placing portable structures on the most heavily impacted campuses. The steadily increasing population is due largely to an influx of emigrants from Indochina and Mexico, say district officials.

District spokeswoman Diane Thomas said the school district began negotiating with the county last fall to acquire portions of the two sites under consideration for the new jail, which would house 1,000 to 1,200 inmates after sentencing, and knew nothing of the jail study. "So it came as quite a surprise to find out that these two sites were suddenly under consideration for a new jail," she said.

(Late Monday, Supervisor Ralph B. Clark mentioned the possibility of a third Santa Ana jail site. He requested a study of whether a 9.4-acre site on North Hesperian Street now used to house juvenile offenders could be used for a new jail.)

A recurring fear of parents contacted Monday was the possibility of a jailbreak. All cited the January escape from the downtown jail by two inmates, one a convicted murderer and the other awaiting trial on murder charges.

Julie Alexander, president of the parent-teachers' association at Hoover Elementary School, said she telephoned the Board of Supervisors Monday to express her opposition to one Santa Ana site. Hoover is located a few blocks north of the Fruit Street site under consideration for the jail.

Alexander said she called Supervisor Thomas F. Riley's office and cited the fears of what could result if a prisoner were to escape. "The school would be a wonderful place for a hostage situation," she said.

Gloria Rubalcava, president of the parents' group at Remington Elementary School, located on 4th Street south of the Fruit Street site, said she feared problems with a break during transportation of newly sentenced prisoners to the jail. "There would be a lot of prisoners coming through the city. My concern is that (jails) aren't as safe as they used to be," she said. "There are a lot of places to hide in a densely populated area."

Rubalcava echoed the concerns of other parents when she admitted that she didn't know where a jail should go, if not in Santa Ana. "But it should be outside the city," she said.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the recommended sites (two others are in Anaheim) today and at least one supervisor, Roger R. Stanton, appears to agree with the school district.

Stanton said he favors a site near Anaheim Stadium where, he said, population density of people under 18 years of age is about a 50th that of the next-highest Santa Ana site. He confirmed that the school district began negotiating last fall for the two sites and said the county "has been favorably inclined to work with the school district."

School board members voted last Friday to pursue condemnation proceedings to acquire the two sites if all other methods fail, citing the overcrowded conditions and the predictions that the district will swell by an additional 1,000 students each year for the next few years.

Diana Blazey, principal of Madison Elementary School, which would have its student population reduced by a new school at Grand and McFadden, said her school has already been put on a year-round schedule.

Rubalcava, of the Remington parents' group, said, "We need that new school, and nobody wants a jail."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World