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Mental illness remains issue in jail overcrowding

Latest population data

City News Service | 5/21/2021, midnight

As Los Angeles County officials continue to hold out the promise of closing the Men's Central Jail—without outlining a clear alternative—the Board of Supervisors this week released detailed data on the county jail population.

Published in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice, the jail “dashboard” is expected to be updated daily to help policymakers, advocates and researchers better understand the race, case status and incidence of mental illness—among other characteristics—of the people held behind bars.

Supervisor Janice Hahn recommended releasing the data publicly.

“We can't create effective policy to address our overcrowded jails if we don't understand our jail population,” Hahn said.

Reflecting the push by social justice advocates for less incarceration and more community-based programs, the presentation was dubbed the Care First L.A.: Tracking Jail Decarceration dashboard.

“This online decarceration dashboard breaks down all the data we have about our jail population and displays it in a way that makes it easy to understand and spot trends,” Hahn said.

Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who co-authored the motion, said the data would help make clear how many people currently in jail could be safely diverted into treatment and counseling rather than continuing to serve time.

“This data dashboard will be an important tool as we move toward responsibly closing Men's Central Jail,” Mitchell said. “It will show how the jail population has changed over time, what factors are contributing to increases in the jail population, and who can safely be targeted for diversion initiatives to help decarcerate the jails.”

The move to reduce the jail population has benefited from the example of what was accomplished during the COVID-19 emergency, when thousands of people held in overcrowded county jails were released to limit the spread of the virus.