On January 8, the Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to postpone approving a design and construction budget and the awarding of a contract for the Mira Loma Women’s Center Project. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl requested the delay. Joining experts in the field and community advocates, she opposes locating the facility at Mira Loma and issued the following statement:
The location of the proposed women’s jail at Mira Loma poses significant, and in my opinion, insurmountable obstacles to our goal of creating a women’s jail that is the centerpiece of a gender-responsive corrections system. Our requests beginning in 2015 for gender-responsive programming and design for any women’s correctional facility have simply not been met. In addition, Mira Loma is too far away from the home communities of the women who would be housed there, and too far away from family members who would need to visit.
The value of visitation and maintaining family ties for incarcerated women as well as their children is widely recognized. Nationally, 80% percent of incarcerated women are mothers, but the proposed facility, located in the Antelope Valley, would require visiting families to travel three hours one-way on public transportation. For visitors taking public transportation from certain areas of the County, the round trip is impossible to complete in a single day.
In September 2015, I expressed concern about the Mira Loma location and I authored a motion with Supervisor Solis to create a Gender Responsive Advisory Committee to prepare strategies that could overcome the formidable challenges posed by the facility’s proposed location. That committee was directed to help the County ensure that Mira Loma was based on national, gender-responsive, best practices that met women’s unique needs. More than three years later, we have no cohesive, gender-responsive transportation, visitation or programming plans.
LA County is making progress in its effort to build a culture of rehabilitation. The new Correctional Treatment Facility will improve the treatment and rehabilitation of the mentally ill jail population. Campus Kilpatrick, the County’s newest juvenile facility, is based on national best practices and was developed in partnership with County departments and community advocates. I believe we need to move forward with a women’s jail plan that reflects comparable vision and ambition. We can and will do better.