JAILS, JAILS AND MORE JAILS
Tuesday’s LA County Supervisor’s meeting is pretty much the Lee Baca/Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Show. Or so it would seem from glancing at the day’s agenda.
First up will be the recommendation by the County CEO, Bill Fujioka, and Sheriff Baca, that the board approve the first steps in building a $900 million new jail to replace the decrepit, dangerous, and hard to manage, Men’s Central Jail—a facility that everyone agrees has to go (although the sheriff wants to keep and repurpose at least part of the thing as a place to house his education based incarceration program).
Exactly what needs to be build or not built to best handle the county’s inmate population is where the disagareements begin.
UPDATE: THE JAIL CONSTRUCTION DISCUSSION WAS JUST PULLED OFF THIS MORNING’S AGENDA AND REFERRED BACK TO THE CEO. (WISE MOVE.)
Instead, the Board chose far more appropriately to discuss a motion (authored by Sups. Molina and Antonovich) hiring an independent consultant who will provide the Board with a “comprehensive report regarding the Jail Plan within 60 days.”
The motion specifies that the report would be required to delve into, at a minimum:
*A description of existing facilities, number and types of beds
*A profile of the existing inmate population by classification;
*A trend analysis that projects the need for beds by security classification type over the next ten, twenty and thirty years
*Jail Plan options and related assumptions which include
one-time and on-going funding needs; including State funding options
*A timeline/delivery schedule, which includes swing space during construction.
The motion passed unanimously. (Go, Supervisors!)
After that, the supervisors’ meeting will feature a bunch of reports and discussions about what goes on inside the jails, including another progress report on the implementation of the Jails Commission’s recommendations.
Also on the table is the $22 Million that the CEO and the sheriff think that the LASD should be given in order to pay for patrols in the unincorporated areas—which we learned were being given short shrift when an audit of the matter was presented in January. (One would think, as we mentioned last time this topic came up, that the cost of policing the unincorporated areas would be first place to which the sheriff’s would allocate resources, since that particular policing assignment is the department’s most basic reason for being. But….oh, never mind)
More after the meeting.
GROUNDHOG DAY:THE CUSTODY VERSION
The main item on the agenda to watch, of course, is the outcome of that proposal for nearly $1 billion for new jail construction that the CEO has recommended be moved to the first steps, planning stages.
What is perplexing in the matter is the fact that, over a year ago, a very similar proposal was floated by the sheriff and the CEO, giving this proposal a Ground Hog Day-esque quality. At the time, the board asked for an analysis of the real need—or lack thereof—for such a massive expansion of the county’s custody facilities, an analysis that specifically took into consideration such existing pieces of research as the excellent and exhaustive Vera Institute report on the jails and jails population (which, incidentally, the the County commissioned), and the James Austin report, which at the time, was still a month or two away from delivery. The idea was that those reports and any other information of relevance, would be factored into any plans for facility renovation, closure, or building. [For text of Austin report go here.]
I could be wrong, but it does not, off hand, appear that Fujioka and the sheriff have, indeed really made much if any use of those reports—although Baca does talk about alternatives to incarceration for some inmates, which echoes Austin.
But stay tuned.
In the meantime, below you can read the common sense memo from the ACLU about what kind of course they think might best be followed in terms of handling the jails population. The memo outlines a plan (using real math) that Men’s Central Jail could be closed altogether and the jail population could be safely redistributed between existing facilities, without spending $933 million on a snazzy new custody complex.
Here’s the memo itself: Memo BOS re Jail Plan 02192013
MONDAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE AND TWO INTRODUCTIONS
The Sheriff already had a good day on Monday, in his half-hour or so press conference in which he introduced his new big hires—Terri McDonald and Ted Sexton. [See video above.]
The first up was Terri McDonald, the former undersecretary of the California Department of Corrections, who has come on to the department as the new Assistant Sheriff in charge of custody, to take over the long-troubled jails.
McDonald is extremely experienced in custody management, and appears to be a pleasantly no-nonsense person, who handled herself at the press conference with what seemed like the right mix of new-guy humility, and don’t-mess with me seasoned confidence.
Ted Sexton, the longtime sheriff of Tuscaloosa County, who will head the LASD’s Department of Homeland Security, which includes oversight of a number of areas, including the controversy-haunted Aero Bureau. Sexton has a good CV for the job, having served as assistant secretary for state and local law enforcement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a couple of years. Plus his oldest son, James Sexton, already works for the department, meaning that the new Chief likely has a better feel for the unstated currents in the department than would most people coming in from the outside.
Sexton didn’t have a chance to talk at the press conference as most reporters were asking questions only about the jails, which either Baca or McDonald fielded.
We hope and presume there will be plenty of time for Sexton to take the mic in the future.