California officials appear poised to deny Los Angeles County’s request for $80 million to go toward a facility for female inmates at a proposed women’s jail in Lancaster.
The county is considering building a 1,600-bed women’s jail at Mira Loma Detention Center, using $100 million in state money that was awarded in 2012, and another $80 million sought from the Board of State and Community Corrections.
That money would go to build facilities dedicated to educational, vocational and life-skills training programs and mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. The facility would also include a space where some women could have their children with them.
“I believe, based on many years in corrections, that if L.A. County is able to provide this model, that we can end up being a solid support and mentor, not just in California but nationally, for the management of female offenders,” Los Angeles County Asst. Sheriff Terri McDonald told state officials while making a pitch for the grant earlier this month.
On Thursday, a state committee recommended giving $500 million to “replace or upgrade outdated facilities and provide alternatives to incarceration, including mental health and substance treatment” at local jails to 15 counties -- but Los Angeles was not one of them.
Among other projects, the committee recommended $80 million for a new 384-bed facility in Orange County, $40 million to replace an existing jail and day reporting center in Tulare County and $38 million for a new minimum and medium-security jail with treatment and reentry programs in Santa Barbara County.
The corrections board will consider the recommendations at a Jan. 16 meeting.
Los Angeles County’s primary women’s jail in Lynwood is 60% over capacity, prompting jailers to release many inmates before they have served their full sentences.
County supervisors had previously planned to build a smaller facility at Pitchess Detention Center, but Mira Loma became available because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stopped using it. Moving the proposed women’s facility to Mira Loma enables the county to build more beds at a lower cost.
The county is still developing a comprehensive county-wide jail plan and has not made a final decision about what to do with Mira Loma.
Activists who want officials to use more alternative programs in lieu of building additional jail beds said they hope losing the state grant might sway county officials to change direction.
“We agree that something different needs to be done with women and children, but these programs should be in the community, not in a locked facility,” said Diana Zuniga, statewide organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget.