Today the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion, read in by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, canceling County plans for a proposed women’s jail at Mira Loma.
In January, when the motion to move Mira Loma forward came to the Board, it was postponed for deeper consideration. At the time the Board postponed the vote, Supervisor Kuehl said that the Mira Loma location posed “insurmountable obstacles to our goal of creating a women’s jail that is the centerpiece of a gender-responsive corrections system.” The proposed facility, located in the Antelope Valley, would have required visiting families to travel three hours one-way on public transportation. Most of the women in LA County custody are mothers and the value of visitation and maintaining family ties for incarcerated women as well as their children is widely recognized. Today’s action is a final rejection of Mira Loma.
In a related action, the Board of Supervisors also voted to hire expert consultants on gender responsive programming for Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF), the current women’s jail; and to help design, develop and program a new women’s jail to replace the now-canceled Mira Loma facility.
Historically, jails were designed to house men who were the only population assumed to be filling them. Today, however, women are becoming the fastest growing population in American jails, their numbers increasing more than 14-fold between 1970 and 2014. Additionally, women’s life experiences and needs are significantly different than men, and LA County must design a more gender-responsive justice system for the approximately 2,000 women currently in its custody.
“We have to significantly re-assess our approach to the women in our custody,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion. “Most of them are arrested for non-violent crimes, and, if sentenced to incarceration, they must be provided with programs that are tailored to meet women’s needs.”
“It is imperative that we incorporate robust gender-responsive programming, treatment and family visitation for women in our criminal justice system, given their unique needs and histories of trauma,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Research has proven that women respond best to rehabilitative reentry and education programs, and I am encouraged that efforts to create gender responsive care will begin immediately at the women’s jail in Lynwood.”