Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is threatening to close one of the county's five jails next week if he is forced to cut $25 million from his $2.5-billion budget.

Baca sent a letter to county supervisors Friday saying that in order to cut costs, he plans to shut down the 1,600-bed North Facility at Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic on Wednesday. He told the supervisors that he will release some of those inmates early and transfer others to already overcrowded jails, according to sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The 187 staff members currently working at Pitchess will be reassigned, Baca wrote.

Whitmore said Baca was reluctant to propose the closure. "This is the last thing he wants to do," Whitmore said.

Baca wrote that closing the jail will "potentially result in an increase in inmate violence and a resultant increase in the use of force."

Whitmore said sheriff's staffers were already planning for the potential closure.

"This is not just a red herring. This is something that is seriously being considered," Whitmore said. "If the budgets continue this way, he might have to close portions of other jails. Everything's being looked at."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

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