The last 220 inmates of the Mira Loma Jail in Lancaster are to be bused out today amid last-minute efforts by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich to stave off closure of the facility, which will reduce the county's jail capacity by about 1,800 beds.
Antonovich is expected to propose a motion to the Board of Supervisors today requesting that Sheriff Sherman Block forgo closing Mira Loma and three other county jails because of county budget troubles.
The jail closings would force the layoff of nearly 1,000 Sheriff's Department employees.
Antonovich's action comes as the last of the 900 men and women held at Mira Loma leave the medium-security jail in a shutdown process that started several weeks ago. Mira Loma held nonviolent offenders convicted of drug possession or sales, theft, misdemeanor assault, prostitution and some felonies, including burglary, officials said.
The Mira Loma inmates are being transferred to two other county jail facilities.
Sheriff's Department officials said Monday that they were moving forward with plans to close the Biscailuz Center in East Los Angeles, as well as two jail facilities in the Peter J. Pitchess Honor Rancho in Castaic.
Block has said he must close the jails because he is expecting that his department's budget will be cut 16%--about $108 million--in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Antonovich's motion calls on Block to maintain the current number of jails until the county adopts its final 1993-94 budget.
"Civil unrest, gang violence, a rising homicide rate and a need for a strong law enforcement presence in our community demands a continuation of our current Sheriff's Department staffing," according to Antonovich's motion.
If the board approves the motion, inmates and staff would return to the Mira Loma jail.
Antonovich's motion calls for the county to establish public safety as its first priority and directs Chief Administrative Officer Harry Hufford to take money from other county departments to keep the Sheriff's Department operating at its current level.
The board last month asked Hufford to find the money needed to keep the jails open, but his office responded by saying it must first complete a draft budget, expected in mid-June, said Eva Snider, a management analyst in the chief administrative office.
The expected $108-million cut in the sheriff's budget comes on the heels of an $88-million reduction this year. The cutbacks will require the closing of four jail facilities, as well as the layoff of nearly 700 of 7,300 sworn department employees, such as deputies, and about 275 of 4,400 civilian workers, said Cmdr. Bob Pash of the custody division.
Pash said the layoff notices will be mailed this week and will take effect July 1.
The budget cuts would reduce the capacity of county jails to about 14,000 inmates from the current maximum of 25,000, said Cmdr. Bob Spierer, head of North County jail facilities.
"This is grim," Spierer said. "We're going to have only the most serious offenders left in custody. There's going to be a lot of people out on the street who all of us as citizens don't want to see out there."
Spierer predicted that "people who commit misdemeanors aren't going to get put in jail."
This is not the first time that the county has had to close Mira Loma. It was closed in 1979 because of budget problems and did not reopen until 1983, said Capt. Stephen Batchelor, head of Mira Loma.
Spierer said closed facilities will be maintained so that they can reopen quickly.
At Mira Loma, six deputies of the 187 employees assigned there will remain, officials said. The rest will transfer Wednesday to different jails.
Despite Antonovich's efforts, Batchelor said he expects Mira Loma has seen its last overnight guest for at least a couple of years.
As recently as a month ago, Mira Loma held about 400 men and 500 women inmates. Budget cuts last fall reduced the number of inmates there from 1,800 to 900.