The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has spent the better part of the last decade debating what to do when they close Men's Central Jail, an aging facility near Union Station that was once described by a federal judge as "not consistent with human values." The supervisors have argued over whether to build new jails to replace it or whether to refurbish existing ones and expand their capacity. Because they've failed to decide, Men's Central has remained open far longer than it should have.
Last year, for example, the board rightfully voted down a proposal by Sheriff Lee Baca and the county's chief executive, William T Fujioka, to spend $1.4 billion to build two new jails and refurbish a third, arguing that it wasn't clear whether such a plan would really address the county's needs.
On Tuesday, the supervisors tabled yet another proposal by Baca asking for $900 million for a new jail, and instead did what they should have done a long time ago. They voted to undertake a comprehensive study to determine exactly what the county's real jail needs will be going forward. The report will provide a baseline of information, including a profile of the existing inmate population, a "trend analysis" that projects the needs for bed space in the coming decade based on security classification, as well as a description of existing facilities and bed capacity.