ACA Blog

Nancy White
Apr 16, 2012

Find a Way to Fix your Broken Jail System Now!

I always do this before I go on vacation. I wonder if everything is complete. Have I finished all my work? Can I leave work behind and just have a good time? Oh, I know work will be there when I get back but….

By now I assume most of you have seen this week’s news story about the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, the largest jail in the world housing nearly 5,000 inmates. (I wonder how many of these inmates are mentally ill?) It is a chilling story of abuse as told by CBS news correspondent Ben Tracy. This abuse is of a citizen going to visit a family member in jail, but allegations of abuse of inmates in the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail have been ongoing since the 1970’s. Now according to John North of KABC-TV channel 7 News in Los Angeles, the jail may be “one step closer to shutting down.”

Apparently in order to do this low risk inmates would need to be moved to other programs.
An expert from the JFA Institute, Dr. James Austin released a report this week based on his study of the jail, which includes a roadmap to closing the jail. The report actually recommends that by starting pre-trial supervision and a re-entry program they could decrease the jail population by 3,000 inmates. Come on Sheriff Lee Baca, you have not started pre-trial supervision or re-entry programs in the 13 years that you have been responsible for this jail? What programs do you have? I can’t imagine what type of health care you provide your inmates?

Pre-trial supervision is often a condition of bond when you are released from jail prior to your court date. It can include contact supervision and referral to community programing. Pre-trial supervision should be individualized based on individual need. Often the defendant’s compliance on pre-trial supervision is taken into account at sentencing if found guilty.

Most jail re-entry programs seek to reduce crime and enhance public safety by implementing a seamless system of services for offenders from the time of their entry into jail through their transition, community reintegration and aftercare in their communities. I am fortunate to work in a county that has re-entry programs with a very strong re-entry program for the mentally ill in our jail.

Hey, Los Angeles, CA. I am sorry I picked on you this week. I want to pick on every county jail that fails to offer programming for their inmates, every county jail that is not trying to help their citizens stay out of jail. Find a way to fix your broken jail system now. These inmates are our husbands, wives, sons, and daughters and they deserve a chance.



Nancy White is a counselor who has spent much of her professional life working in corrections.

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