L.A. County to relocate 1,000 inmates, build facility to treat mentally ill

August 11, 2015

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to move at least 1,000 mentally ill offenders out of lockups and voted to build a state-of-the-art jail focused on mental health treatment. The moves come in response to a growing debate about how the county incarcerates its inmates - particularly the mentally ill, who make up 20% of the roughly 17,000 people behind bars. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and others called for an approach that would move many mentally ill people out of jail and into treatment programs in hopes that they would get help and not commit more crimes. The supervisors' plan allocates about $10 million annually to such diversion programs. Some of the money will come from state money set aside for supervising and helping offenders. Forty percent of the diversion funds will be spent on housing, including 1,000 housing units for mentally ill people who might otherwise be in jail or homeless. A similar, small-scale program was launched at the San Fernando courthouse last year. Most of the rest of the money will go toward expanding outpatient treatment programs, substance abuse programs, mental health urgent care centers, and facilities for people with severe mental health issues.