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Women could number among inmates at Castaic jail

Supervisors weigh changes to Pitchess Detention Center

Posted: July 16, 2013 6:56 p.m.
Updated: July 16, 2013 6:56 p.m.

Proposals to construct new facilities to house female inmates at Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic were front and center Tuesday as county supervisors discussed plans to overhaul the Los Angeles County jail system.

Representatives from Vanir Construction Management Inc., a Los Angeles company that specializes in public construction projects, presented a report with five different plans to rework the jail system.

Of those, three included the construction of some sort of new women’s facility at Pitchess to house potentially more than 1,100 female inmates.

The county has received a state grant to construct new housing and program services at Pitchess that is primarily intended to address the needs of women inmates whose crimes are non-violent, non-serious or non-sexual in nature, according to Tuesday’s report.

Dozens of people from several different advocacy groups turned out in May near Pitchess Detention Center to protest any expansion of the jail facility, saying community programs and other alternatives to incarceration should be promoted instead.

Many of those same groups were on hand for Tuesday’s meeting to speak out against construction of any new jails in Los Angeles County.

“It’s well documented that building more jails and prisons does not make anybody safer,” said Daniel Trautfield with the group No More Jails.

Potential new women’s facilities are just one component of the five plans that were presented Tuesday.
Each of the five plans is meant to substantively revise the countywide jail system.

For instance, each plan entails the demolition of Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles and the construction of new facilities to compensate for the loss of capacity, as well as the expansion of services for inmates with mental health issues.

The plans carry estimated price tags that range from $1.3 billion to more than $1.6 billion, according to Tuesday’s report.

“The cost is giving me some sticker shock,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

But Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said deficiencies in the county’s jail facilities must be addressed.

“Jails are, clearly, a necessity,” he said. “The extent of what those jails are is another matter for debate. But there is a human rights component that cannot be ignored with respect to what jails look like and what services they are legally obliged to afford.”

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose district includes the Santa Clarita Valley, said the next step in the process is further study on the plans, such as determining operating and programming costs.

“Those facts and figures are required before making a selection of the particular option to then proceed with,” he said.

Supervisors voted to request a report examining those types of topics be presented at a board meeting in the near future.

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