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Should We Spend $2 Billion on New Jails? Which Way LA? & Candidates Opine….and More


Nearly everyone seems to agree that we need to tear down the decrepit and dangerous monstrosity that is Men’s Central Jail. Members of the LA County Board of Supervisors think so, as does Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald who is in charge of the jails for the sheriff’s department, along with So Cal ACLU legal director Peter Eliasberg, and various criminal justice advocates.

But after it’s torn down, then what?

On Wednesday, Vanir Construction Management Inc. released the latest iteration of what has now ballooned into a possible $2.3 billion jail building project for the supervisors to consider in replacing Mens Central Jail and building a new 1,600-bed women’s jail at the now-disused Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster. The proposed new facility would replace the overcrowded women’s jail in Lynwood.

There are actually five versions of the plan that range in price from $1.74 billion to $2.32 billion.

The dollar figure is up from an earlier set of plans presented by Vanir last July, which were priced from $1.3 billion up to the deluxe version at $1.6 billion. And those price tags were already a jump from the $1 billion Vanir suggested just four months earlier still.

On Thursday night, KCRW’s Which Way LA? hosted a critical discussion of the plan featuring Assistant Sheriff McDonald, and the ACLU’s Eliasberg, with Barbara Bogaev hosting, standing in for Warren Olney.

Along with the price increases, the segment touched on a lot of the issues that have been troubling us. Things like:

Why is a Vanir—a construction company—acting as the highly paid “consultant” that comes up with the jail reform plan? Isn’t that a bit of a conflict of interest? Put another way, isn’t this report really just a bunch of glorified bids?

In any case, be sure to listen.

The Supes are due to consider the plan on May 6, which is Tuesday after next. We’ll have more on the matter closer to the date.


As it happens, in the most recent sheriff’s candidates’ debate on Thursday night at the Church in Ocean Park in Santa Monica, the seven would-be sheriffs were each asked what they thought of the expensive Vanir jail building proposal.

(For the record, this debate was moderated by the League of Women Voters and sponsored by Dignity Now: Safety for All in partnership with ACLU of Southern California; Justice, Not Jails; Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership; and Committee for Racial Justice.)

The candidates did not seem as prepared for the question as they had been for most of the others so their responses were interesting.

Here’s a rundown on what the seven said:

Todd Rogers, who fielded the question first, balked visibly at the price, then said that although he favored a replacement for Men’ Central Jail, he did not want to see the number of beds in the county system increased.

“I think we have plenty of jail beds in LA County and I think we can do a better job of managing our population.” Rodgers said that more than fifty percent of the jail population was mentally ill or locked up as a result of substance abuse.

“We need to find…treatment out in the community for many of these people,” he said, and save the jail beds for those who really need them. This wasn’t easy, Rogers added. As assistant sheriff, he’d tried to find beds for the mentally ill. “And we only found 200. That’s unacceptable.”

Tanaka too favored getting rid of MCJ, the flaws of which he described in detail. But he also recoiled from the high price and talked about the groups who did not need to be in the facility, like “low level first time offenders who don’t belong there.”

He said that of the low level offenders should be diverted to “community programs that can get them on their feet and back out as productive members of society….The same thing goes for the mentally ill.”

Lou Vince, Pat Gomez and Jim Hellmold also said no increased jail capacity, although Hellmold was particularly adamant that the nightmarish Men’s Central had to be bulldozed.

McDonnell said that when he was on the jails commission he learned from a custody facilities expert that Men’s Central Jail was one of the worst structures in the nation. But he was one more who questioned the big jump in price to replace the thing.

McDonnell also hit the topic of the jail systems’ alarming numbers of mentally ill inmates. “We need to deal with mental health,” he said,“but we need to deal with it on the front end, before people ever get to jail.” For those who do wind up in the jails, he said, “we need to do the best we can,” which required “a state of the art facility.”

Eventually McDonnell circled away from the building plan, and back to the issue abuse in the jails. How the facility is run “is the most critical part of the issue,” he said. “How we house [the inmates] or where we house them is one issue. But how we treat people with respect and dignity is a whole other issue.”

Olmsted, who went last, said he’d been part of an earlier discussion to replace Men’s Central in 2008, when the price tag was far lower. But whatever the price, he said, the problem was still the same.

“When was the last time you heard of our jails being undercrowded.” he shouted to the audienced, then paused as the audience laughed. “Never! he said in answer to his own question.

So what would Olmsted do? “I can get 3000 or 3500 more beds… by having an intervention program for the mentally ill— a mental health court to get them booked somewhere else before they ever get into the system. ….I don’t think society ever envisioned Men’s Central Jail being the largest mental health hospital in the nation.”

The rest of the debate was reasonably lively and featured the candidates taking jabs at each other.

Many of the jabs were aimed at Tanaka who, at present, has raised the most campaign funds, and, save for McDonnell, has the lengthiest list of endorsements. Candidates made frequent reference to Tanaka’s infamous “working the grey,” speeches. At one point, Lou Vince even quipped to Tanaka with a glance at his attire, “I wouldn’t have worn a grey suit tonight.”

In his closing remarks, Tanaka took his own swings back with some humor as he made reference to the punches he’d been taking all evening, and at earlier debates.

“I would venture guess that I’ve not met most of you, probably 99 percent of you, before tonight. So everything that you perceived about Paul Tanaka before you walked in tonight you read about or was perpetuated by these guys up here. And I know what you were thinking because I looked out in audience the when I sat down, and I saw some of you whisper, I know exactly what you were thinking. you were thinking, “Damn, I thought he was a lot bigger!”

“Because of all these horrendous things you’ve heard about me, I would just ask you to look at facts—objectively and non-emotionally….”

“Take a look at my 33 year track record…” And then he ticked off his accomplishments.


  • “Take a look at my 33 year track record”.

    If there’s only one thing every hard charging gun slinging ass kicking hooking and booking doing the Lord’s work R2 deputy knows, it’s this:

    You’re only as good as your last hook.

    What you did last year or 20 years ago don’t mean squat. Living on a few good hooks of the past are for all the slaps in R1 and R3……..Every righteous dude in R2 knows it’s about what you have done lately. That’s what separates all the hard workers in R2 from all the slaps everywhere else.

    That’s why I find it funny when the R2 guru wants us to focus on the distant past and forget about the recent past….the “lately”.

  • I got hard money on the table that Tanska will NOT appear at the televised PPOA debate on Monday. His campaign calendar is clear, the invite was sent long ago, but he will proclaim a conflict. Why? Because he won’t get softball questions like the other public debates and he will not be able to proclaim “I’ve never condoned misconduct” without having his ass handed to him. So there you have it PPOA, he wants your money but not you. Ask those who have been indicted.

  • Oh Well are you suggesting that ALL the folks in the old R1 and R3 are “slaps” and do nothing, while the R2 folks are “All that” and carry everyone elses load??? I’ve worked all three regions as well as specialized units and held a few ranks over the last few decades. I think most reasonable people would agree that overall R2 has some of the tougher neighborhoods to work, but R2 has always had their percentage of dead wood, just like everywhere else… Don’t kid yourself… All these other cities don’t just police themselves.

  • Oh Well Says, Partner (I use that term loosely), I spent 13 years in Region 1/ELA,the late 1980’s to 2001, pushing a black and white the entire time. If you were a deputy then, you were not a Slap in any region. Grow up and let some Air outta your shaved head R2 Gunslinger!

  • This excerpt is from the Pasadena Star News Editorial page. MCDONNELL SAYS ROGERS IS ONE CURRENT MEMBER OF THE BRASS HE COULD WORK WITH. Boomer called that one back in January. So let me clarify this for you. Rogers entered the race to take votes from Tanaka and Hellmold, period. He and McDonnell brokered that deal the day Baca stepped down. Rogers has failed miserably in this campaign. He’s hoping the title Assistant Sheriff will help. Neither he nor B.O. will be in the runoff. During the runoff the real dirt on Ole McDonnell will come out, and believe me there’s a lot. He will be exposed for what he really is. Then all these fat cat bureaucrats jumping on his bandwagon will have egg on their face as the insider LASD candidate wins the Office of Sheriff. Sorry…But that’s how this is going to end. Mark my words! Ever wonder why nobody from LAPD or LA City insiders never speak up on his behalf? Because they shuttled him out of the City and never looked back. The Long Beach officers can’t wait to shuttle him to the County. The Long Beach Police Department is racially profiling Blacks and Hispanics and systematically discriminating against them as they prevent blacks from utilizing public transportation. I have it on good authority the Feds have been advised. McDonnell won’t triple dipping on our backs. I’m not interested in working with the poster boy for pension reform. And why anyone wants to allow the Board of Supervisors to pick a puppet for a Sheriff remains a complete mystery to me. I apologize to the old LASD guard who want to turn back the clock 20 years. It’s not going to happen. Boomer!

  • Seriously, Fed Up,
    Jesus fellas. Read through the lines. I was being sarcastic. I was doing a parody of a couple of other posters who have the “R2 has hard workers and righteous dudes, but everybody else is a slap” attitude. I was pointing out the irony of how the guy those R2 righteous dudes are supporting hasn’t stepped up and publicly went to bat for those who are swinging in the breeze over a caper he ordered. How he hasn’t got their backs.
    Have a cool one boys. Relax. I was calling out those have that attitude.

  • Boomer,
    Re: #6

    “I have it on good authority the Feds have been advised”.

    Think about that. Think about what it says.

    It appears that when you get your chones in a bunch you just go off saying all kinds of things that make you sound like you are either:

    1. Getting desperate to trumpet your guy so your bullshitting.


    2. Associating with people who like to pick up the phone and call the Feds.

    If you’re bullshitting, come on man. Really?
    If you’re not bullshitting and you are hanging with dudes who like to drop dimes to the feds, how could they EVER do a PM or EM shift with you in your radio car of trust? After all Boomer, isn’t that what you’ve raked Olmsted over the coals about? Do you need me to copy and paste your past posts where you go off about how you feel about Olmsted going to the Feds?

    Gee bro. As time goes on, you are seeming a little “inconsistent” shall we say. You seem more than pleased that somebody went to the Feds about McDonnell. But you think Olmsted is a punk for going to the Feds about your guy. How does that work bro?
    I’ll tell you how it works. You’re being a hypocritical political hack for your guy. That’s what you were the day you showed up with your “I’m a R2 badass hard charger and I can tell you Tanaka is the man” attitude.
    As time goes on, you’re exposing yourself. And not in a good way.

  • @OhWell- That is so weak it’s ridiculous. Is it my fault the word is all over the yard that LBPD is being looked at for racial profiling and discrimination? I don’t celebrate cops getting in trouble like others. I surely don’t associate with people who call the Feds. I just report the facts! And your comparison to putting deputies in jail is a bit of a stretch wouldn’t you say? As for Region 2, what can I say, it’s where the gunslingers went by choice! I’m sorry if it’s a culture that I bought into and still believe in. There is no use in you looking back. Your choice to work “east” is your business and only you know the real reason why you wrote down those stations while in the Academy. I know why I chose the ghetto. Now please break out your cite book and get back to work. Let me know if you come across a powdery substance you need to examine for you or a gun you need me to render safe. Boomer!

  • I just received a forwarded email with a list of the candidates attending the PPOA debate tomorrow. Consciously absent is Paul Tanaka. That speaks volumes of him as an individual candidate and whose back he really has (the same back he has always had, HIS.) This is one debate where he would have to answer serious, but fair, questions about his actions without his pre-recorded statements that he has never condoned misconduct. Maybe he thinks he already bought the PPOA vote and doesn’t need to attend? Maybe his robocalls to all his donors and Kool Aid drinkers, like the leaders who stood behind him at his announcement, of “You owe me,” is all he needs for the PPOA vote?

  • Maybe Tanaka has a meeting, dental, doctor appointment during that time. Traffic is pretty heavy on a Monday….IJS.

  • Boomer,
    It’s absolutely hilarious that you think you know where I work. It’s like a lot of other stuff you assume. You’re absolutely sure about it. Only you’re wrong.

    Tell us Boomer, why would your guy avoid the PPOA debate?
    Doesn’t want to answer up about letting guys swing in the breeze?

    You can choose to tell us where you work, where you think I work, what a bitchin cop you are, how I’m a slap, etc. etc. yack yack yack.

    Or you could answer the question.

    If the question’s too tough, if you don’t have a legit answer, we’ll just stand by for you to tell us AGAIN what a bitchin cop you are because you work the ghetto.

    I mean, everybody knows, there’s never been a slap work the ghetto. (Except those of us who worked there DO know there’s slaps there). They are usually the ones with the stickers all over their cars, their wives car, their relatives, etc. They are also usually the ones who can’t go ten seconds in a conversation without telling you they work the ghetto.
    They are laughed at by the true, quiet professionals at the station who carry their dead weight for them.

  • Every time he was in a room full of men’s men, Baca would immediately let everybody know he was a Marine. He would bring up his USMC service every chance he got. I guess he thought that would keep the men’s men from seeing his weakness.

    Sound familiar? Remind you of anybody?

  • He may not be right but he is convinced…

    Baca is starting to release he will take the fifth in the upcoming trials. As a leader and the author of the core values, I will leave my men in the field.

    I would like to see whitmore just one more time so we could watch him spin that move.

  • I know these morons from R2 posting their bad ass mentality is not a reflection of all of those who wear the same badge and uniform. I have worked with some very humble R2 fellas who do not go around talking this R2 best region in the county mentality bullshit. Paul Tanaka needs to stay retired and those R2 fellas from Tanaka’s camp should just let their corrupt leader be. They back Tanaka because they no longer have him around to lead their camp ? Lol. There are plenty of old Tanaka’s baggage still on this department that need to bounce as well. The ones who walked around as if their shit didn’t stink because they had Tanaka’s backing. One that comes to mind is “Jim Thornton.” Watch your back with this guy. He will shake your hand and make you feel like he’s such a great guy and will stab you in the back in a hot second. He’s a coward in my book. He doesn’t back the troops and if he had the chance to burn a Deputy for the sake of getting in some girls pants. He would burn the Deputy!!! His bullshit is in the open and his rookie moves will be exposed!

  • Who cares if you worked homicide,narco, seb, R1, R2, R3 or any other “elite” unit becuase when you retire, hopefully you are like every any other deputy who retired enjoying life and living on memories real and imaginary.

  • Jack,
    Stop by the Mickey D’s at Alameda/Firestone and ask Whitmore if he can take a break from flipping burgers and tell you what he thinks about Baca taking the 5th.

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