Activists are renewing their push to close the troubled Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles following recent inmate deaths at the facility.
Organizers demonstrated near the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Thursday morning demanding that they commit to a timeline to shut down the jail by March 2025.
Demonstrators shouted “Shut it down” and held signs that read “People deserve care, not cages.”
They said the conditions inside the jail are inhumane.
Three inmates died in L.A. County jails in just over a week, and at least one died at the Central Jail, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Also at the rally was Helen Jones, whose son, John Horton died inside the jail in 2009. She believes her son was killed by deputies.
“We have to save lives … we know innocent people are in jail. We know this. And even if you did do something to go to jail, you deserve more than one chance because you know what? Our officials get chances over and over and over again,” Jones said.
Men’s Central Jail is one of the oldest in the state, housing thousands of inmates of all security levels.
In 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion to create a jail closure implementation team, which would develop goals and timelines to safely depopulate and close the jail.
Organizers said officials have not been taken to make that happen.
“Here were are 24 months later, and they’ve actually made steps backwards,” Melissa Camacho a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said, adding that human rights abuses occur inside the jail “daily.” “The community needs mental health services … and housing for people who don’t have homes and the Men’s Central Jail closure report laid out a roadmap for how to build those services.”
“Because the jails are operating 20% over capacity, we’re going to continue to see people dying,” Camacho told the L.A. Times. “There are just too many people there for correctional health services to provide adequate medical care and treatment.”
Activists said they want officials to allocate millions of dollars to produce additional mental health beds.
“We want to see people, instead of getting arrested for their mental illness, arrested for them being houseless, we want to see them being placed into facilities to address the real issues,” James Nelson, of Dignity & Power Now said. He called the Men’s Central Jail a “rat hole.”
After the rally, organizers hand-delivered letters to the Board of Supervisors outlining what they want.
KTLA has reached out to the board for comment, but has not heard back.