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Site Selection for New County Jail

February 07, 1988

It is a pathetic irony that in this "freest of nations," public safety and personal freedom have been jeopardized more than in any large nation by uncontrolled crime and recidivism. The Los Angeles Times, the media in general and our Legislature, however, have treated resultant jail overcrowding in Los Angeles and Orange counties as a local issue, when in fact it is symptomatic of the plight of urban centers throughout this crime-ridden nation. It is time that government comes to grips with the problem and with solutions which do not further jeopardize public safety and the integrity of our neighborhoods.

After 10 years of delay, controversial early inmate releases and stop-gap attempts to relieve the overcrowding, the Orange County Board of Supervisors under pressure chose political expediency over good judgment. The supervisors decided in a 3-2 vote to construct the largest jail in the United States, a $660-million maximum-medium security penal facility in Gypsum Canyon on some of the most expensive acreage in the county, far from our Central Court, where most cases are tried.

More logical and cost-effective alternatives such as expansion of Central Jail at the county seat (where Sacramento and San Diego counties chose to construct their large high-rise jails)--were ignored purely for reasons of political self-interest.

We members of Taxpayers for a Centralized Jail have been outspokenly critical of decisions based on political expediency, and self-interest rather than thoughtful and sound principles of planning. We favor the logic of expanding existing facilities close to Central Court because it makes sense, and not because we wish to "stick it to Santa Ana."

In addition, however, we propose legislation providing for truly remote multicounty regional jails for inmates no longer on trial. Such a regional facility for Orange and adjacent counties could take much of the pressure off Central Jail in Santa Ana, and the concept extended statewide could eliminate jail overcrowding in other highly populated counties.

No, it's not a matter of Orange County "elitism" as some have charged, but the fact that better alternatives have been ignored.



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