Jul 28, 2014
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L.A. County Takes Another Step Towards Greenlighting Women's Jail

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $5.5 million contract for design services.

L.A. County Takes Another Step Towards Greenlighting Women's Jail

The Board of Supervisors moved one step closer Tuesday to greenlighting a jail for women at the former Mira Loma Detention Center, authorizing a $5.5 million contract for conceptual drawings and design-build services for the proposed facility.

Jail overcrowding, deteriorating facilities and a federal probe of the treatment of mentally ill inmates contributed to the Board of Supervisors' decision last year to hire an outside consultant to develop a comprehensive jails plan. In July, Vanir Construction Management offered five options, ranging in cost from $1.3 billion to more than $1.6 billion. A follow-up analysis is tentatively due back May 6.

In the meantime, the county needs to start working on the design of a women's jail or risk losing $108.2 million in state funding. The state has already extended its deadline by one year and documents outlining the scope of the project are due in September.

The cash from the state would cover about 90 percent of the cost of building a "women's village" at Mira Loma Detention Center.

The jail was originally proposed at Pitchess Detention Center, however, title issues there were an obstacle and a shift to Mira Loma dramatically reduced the cost of the proposed project.

The facility is planned to include 1,156 traditional jail beds and another 448 transitional beds for inmates living with less supervision as they prepare for life post-release.

Civil rights advocates—who continue to demand alternatives to incarceration— argued that Mira Loma, in Lancaster, is too far away for inmates to maintain contact with family and friends. That support is critical, they say, to long-term rehabilitation and integration back into the community.

"This Mira Loma jail will only move grandmothers, mothers and sisters farther away from their families," said Tanisha Denard, a youth organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition.

Others raised concerns that construction workers and inmates would be exposed to Valley fever, a respiratory illness prevalent in desert areas.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich said he wanted to "ensure that pieces of our jail plan move together."

Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka said staffers would return to the board before submitting any project criteria to the state.

"At each phase of this process, we will be coming back to the board," Fujioka said.

—City News Service

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