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LA Residents Rally Against $1.4B Jail Construction Project

LOS ANGELES ( — Residents in the city of Los Angeles held a rally Tuesday against a controversial plan to expand jail services in Los Angeles County.

KNX 1070's Megan Goldsby reports community and religious leaders, scholars, youth activists and artists participated in a rally outside of the Board of Supervisors meeting in downtown Los Angeles.

LA Residents Rally Against $1.4B Jail Construction Project

Wearing orange shirts that read, "No Jails", protesters urged officials not to spend up to an estimated $1.6 billion to build new jail cells rather than investing in public resources for the community.

"We already got the highest incarceration [rate] in the United States...why? There's so much other things we could do with this money," said one man.

Members of the Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) and LA No More Jails Coalition timed the rally as Vanir Construction Management was expected to present an independent report to the Board of Supervisors on five jail construction options for the county.

In the report dated July 5, Vanir presented four alternatives - none of which increase the number of beds available - ranging in cost from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion. Each proposal calls for demolishing Men's Central Jail and building a facility downtown to house all high- and medium-security inmates and provide for mentally ill criminals.

But coalition leaders say the proposal fails to create any plan that projects a lower jail population through the implementation of "well-founded alternatives and wrap-around services in the community".

"There are clear alternatives that we could implement to reduce the jail population right now that would strengthen our communities and save the county over a billion dollars," said coalition leader Mary Sutton. "Even though recent reports show that crime rates are down, the plan projects the need for the same number of jail beds ten years from now."

The Vanir plan, which projects a 50 percent increase in the mental health population inside county jails, fails to provide alternative resources for the mentally ill and would affect primarily female inmates, according to CURB.

Coalition members say the county should end the Sheriff's controversial jail expansion plan and instead use the millions of dollars received from the State in AB109 realignment to fund community-led drug and mental health treatment, housing, education, job training and family reunification programs.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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