Taking its first official stance on the issue, the City Council this week passed a resolution opposing plans to expand James A. Musick Branch Jail and convert it to a high-security prison.
Besides speaking against the proposed expansion, the council also voted to start the process of adding to or changing city ordinances to regulate jail site development.
A general plan amendment and zoning changes might be needed in case the debate over the jail expansion goes to court, city officials said.
"We basically need to cover all the bases," Mayor Richard T. Dixon said. "There's always an outside possibility that we have to get involved in litigation over the issue."
The proposal to rebuild the Musick jail is in the hands of county officials, who are conducting an environmental report on the expansion plan. The report is due for release Oct. 8.
In the meantime, city officials, who acknowledge the need for a new maximum-security facility, are negotiating with the county to have it built in a less populated area.
The Musick jail is about 1,000 feet from residential neighborhoods in Lake Forest. The plan to expand it to accommodate those convicted of serious crimes has drawn strong opposition from city residents.