ALADS Vice President James Wheeler
Speaks Against Stopping Construction of a
New Men's Central Jail
Los Angeles – At the Tuesday, August 13, 2019 L.A. County Board of Supervisors' meeting, ALADS Vice President James Wheeler spoke in opposition of Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis' motion on Agenda Item #14 which would halt construction of a new Men's Central Jail. Below are his comments.
I’m here today as the Vice President of the ALADS, representing over 8,000 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators, urging you to rethink the motion that would terminate the efforts to rebuild the Men’s Central Jail facility.

While we understand the hopeful intent of moving County inmates into community facilities, we know that our County needs more, not less, jail capacity to prevent overcrowding in the future.

Our deputy sheriffs have worked for decades in custody facilities where conditions can only be described as deplorable for ALADS members and inmates alike. Conditions at the Men’s Central jail facility have been unsafe for as long as anyone can remember. The solution has always been to replace it with a twenty-first century custody facility that will properly serve inmates, especially those with mental health needs.

Cancelling the design-build contract is a step backwards. When the design-build approach was approved by your Board on March 28, 2019, the intent of your Board was always to integrate community care options as part of the new programs. If your Board approves this motion, and terminates the design-build efforts for a new facility, it’s unclear to many of us what we should expect for the future. It seems as though you are relegating deputy sheriffs and inmates to another decade of the unsafe conditions at the current Men’s Central Jail facility, and that should be of tremendous concern for everyone.

Please listen to your deputy sheriffs who spend years of their work lives in these jails we are now contemplating. The need for in-custody beds will continue. A study cited by the Sheriff’s letter indicates that we will need 6,700 beds for mental health inmates by the year 2025. That same study recommended more beds, not less, and to proceed with a capacity of 4,600 to 5,060, along with the diversion programs supported by advocacy groups. These increases don’t signify more incarceration – they simply allow the community to keep pace with demographic growth and demands placed on the urban core.

Our custody facilities are already overcrowded. We currently house roughly 4,000 male and 1,000 female inmates with mental health issues. Those numbers are going up every year, and even if the ambitious estimates of diversion transfers are met, we will still not have nearly enough beds to serve our mentally ill inmate population. Without the MHTC, and the custody mental health treatment beds it would provide, we expect severe overcrowding that would
require the release of potentially violent, mentally ill inmates who would not have the benefit of treatment that may help their rehabilitation.

If your Board approves the motion to terminate the design-build contract today, we believe that you are preventing progress on a vitally important component of our County’s criminal justice system. Your motion sends a message to your deputies that you are willing to accept options that we believe are not good for public safety. We believe that termination of the design-build option and delays or cancellation of the MHTC will lead to outcomes that none of us want. We believe that this motion will lead to more jail overcrowding and the continued use of the current Men’s Central Jail facility. We are your custody deputies, we all want to meet your public safety goals for today and for the future, and all we are saying is please, give us a better option to safely house our inmate population.

Thank you for your time and this opportunity to convey the concerns of deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,800 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. For media inquiries, contact