By Tommy Bryant
Journalism Guild Writer
Los Angeles expects a lawsuit will challenge the overcrowding and poor conditions in its jails resulting from Realignment, the county district attorney says.
“You know another lawsuit is coming,” says L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey. “We’re next.”
Imagine triple-stacked bunk beds spaced one foot apart with toilets placed in the middle rows without partitions. This describes one of the temporary living quarters crammed with more than 200 inmates at the Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) in Los Angeles.
According to Christina Villacorte of the L.A. Daily News, Sheriff’s Capt. Daniel Dyer grimaced during a recent inspection as he pointed out the men having to eat and sleep a few feet from the toilets. “That’s just wrong,” he said.
MCJ was built in 1963 and has a long history of failing pipes, rusted gates, broken doors, leaking sewage, failing air conditioning systems. Most of the businesses that produced replacement parts to repair these problems no longer exist.
Juan Hernandez, a drug offender said, “Attitudes are popping off.” Another drug offender, Andy Gurule, said he preferred being homeless on the streets rather than being held at MCJ.
Prison Realignment (AB 109) has pushed this overcrowding to the point of forcing L.A. County to hold more than two or three state prison populations. MCJ’s population was about 15,000 three years ago and it now holds 19,000 – 4,000 more than government regulations allow, the newspaper reported.
Gov. Jerry Brown has created a crisis by requiring counties to keep low-level offenders who were once shipped to a state prison, noted County Assistant Chief Executive Officer Ryan Alsop.
The federal courts prompted Realignment when California prisons were declared so overcrowded they violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The price tag to fix the MCJ situation permanently is a whopping $1.7 billion to demolish the facility and build a modern corrections facility on that site, according to a recent environmental study requested by the county Board of Supervisors.
By Tommy Bryant