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The Great Prison Holdup

Public hearings are scheduled for April 30 and May 1 at the Crown Coach property near downtown Los Angeles, the proposed site of a new state prison. It would be nice if the hearings helped clear the way for work on the prison, but we’re not holding our breath.

No one questions the need for a new prison in the county. State law requires it. Dangerous overcrowding in existing prisons demands it. Fairness supports it; 38% of the state’s male prisoners come from Los Angeles County. And the neighbors reject it.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Apr. 21, 1986 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday April 21, 1986 Home Edition Metro Part 2 Page 4 Column 5 Letters Desk 2 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
A Times editorial (April 18) on the location of a new state prison on the Crown Coach property at 12th and Santa Fe Avenue in Los Angeles stated that public hearings had been scheduled for April 30 and May 1. The state Department of Corrections has told The Times that the second of the two hearings has been canceled. The only hearing will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at the site.

There is much to be said for the site. It is convenient to the county’s Men’s Central Jail. It is near freeways. That is important, because 1,000 of the 1,700 beds will be used for inmates being processed before they go to prisons where they will serve time. It is a short bus ride from courts and hearings in the Civic Center. It is handy to public transportation. There is much to be said against it. Nobody wants to live near a prison. Opponents are distributing maps showing schools that are close to the site. Nearby residents worry about escapes.

Residents of Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, East Los Angeles and El Sereno are also dubious about a state goal that would give Latinos 30% of the 700 prison jobs. They say that few job benefits came from the four existing county detention facilities that hold more than 11,000 inmates downtown.

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Department of Corrections officials who will conduct the public hearings have their work cut out for them in more ways than one. Even if they were to erase every doubt for 15 miles in every direction of the Crown Coach site, they would be smack up against politics. Will Democrats in the state Assembly approve a site favored by Gov. George Deukmejian while he is fighting off a challenge from Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who wants the prison in Saugus? Not likely.

Something has to give. With luck, it will be the politics of prison location and not an overcrowded prison somewhere else in the state.


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