L.A. County Scraps $2 Billion Replacement Plan for Men’s Central Jail

Phone booths line the street near Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles in this undated photo. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Phone booths line the street near Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles in this undated photo. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County has cancelled a nearly $2 billion contract to replace an aging jail after criticism that it needs better ways to deal with a growing population of the mentally ill.

County supervisors on Tuesday voted to scrap the contract to replace the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles with a mental health treatment center that critics said was simply another jail.

Authorities say the current jail is cramped, dilapidated and doesn’t meet the needs of the nation’s largest jail system.

Activists for years have urged the county to divert jail funding into creating community mental health treatment centers and programs.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva called Tuesday’s decision irresponsible, saying it would leave dangerous inmates “without a place to stay” without providing proper treatment for those with mental issues.

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