Proposal to 'depopulate' LA County jails would release some inmates

To combat overcrowding at Los Angeles County jails, a new proposal calling for their "depopulation and decarceration" that would release some incarcerated inmates is prompting safety concerns from the public. 

The proposal, submitted by LA County Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis, would "declare the state of mental health services and overcrowding in the Los Angeles County jails a humanitarian crisis, requiring the county to move with all deliberate speed on meaningful solutions; and prioritize decreasing the number of individuals entering the Los Angeles County jails."

While the proposal was to be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors in Tuesday's meeting, Solis announced Monday she was pulling the proposal from the agenda for consideration amid concerns from the public and stakeholders.

"I introduced the motion as a way to strike a balance with both justice-involved advocates and public safety representatives. Additionally, with the federal consent decrees and settlement agreements, including a potential receivership from the State, I felt this move was necessary," Solis said in a statement. "Since the motion was published, my office has received concerns from a variety of stakeholders — those who feel the motion is not doing enough and those who feel it is doing too much. To that end, I will be referring the motion back to my office so that I can continue to gather input from all stakeholders."

Solis further added it was important to "balance the needs of public safety while also getting into compliance with our federal obligations."

According to the proposal, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department would be instructed to "release individuals committed and/or sentenced to the County jails for misdemeanors and/or felonies who can be safely released back into the community." An earlier version of the proposal said it would apply to criminals with less than a $50,000 bond.


It would also direct the Los Angeles Superior Court would be directed to "implement the Emergency Bail Schedule that was in place at the height of the COVID pandemic."

The proposal also asked Gov. Gavin Newsom's office to "expedite [the] release of individuals being held in custody on behalf of the state including granting the sheriff delegated authority to calculate credits, and release individuals directly from local custody... and establish state-funded and managed alternative custody arrangements for individuals who are in custody based on the state's decision to revoke their parole." 

The Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs say they were "blindsided" by this proposal and only learned about it on Friday. 

Some critics say they believe in responsible reform and this "rushed motion" allows no participation from stakeholders and want the item agenda tabled. They also said the proposal could allow for the release of suspects accused of illegally carrying a gun, and those arrested on charges like domestic violence, possession of child pornography, residential burglary, robbery or assault with a firearm.

"The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors'' motion to gut parts of the criminal justice system without input from stakeholders is dangerous and reckless," Eric Siddall, the vice president of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, told FOX News.

"The authors sought no advice from those who know and understand public safety issues," he said. "They seek to lower the jail population without addressing the root causes of crime or protecting the public."

But the supervisors' proposal, Siddall said, does not include provisions to "protect the community from violent criminals."

"This catch-and-release program comes without any plan or infrastructure to protect the community from violent criminals apprehended by law enforcement," he said. "This program benefits no one except for career criminals. We need to make sure the most dangerous offenders don't get out, that first-time offenders don't com back and that those with serious mental illnesses get appropriate care and help. This does none of that."

Siddall said the proposal would make Los Angeles County "much less safe." 

Just last week, activists renewed efforts to close the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, calling it "unsafe, crowded, and crumbling." 

Organizers with the JusticeLA Coalition held a demonstration near the LA County Board of Supervisors headquarters, saying three LA County prisoners died in a nine-day period last month. They want this jail in particular shut down at the latest by 2025. 

"This board has taken steps to divert people from our jails safely, but Men’s Central Jail continues to overcrowded and dangerous for both our inmates and our deputies. That being said, I have concerns with this proposal and its potential impact on public safety, and I cannot support it," said LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn. "Any plan to reduce the population of our jails needs to be decided in partnership with law enforcement, our deputy district attorneys, and our courts.  I understand that my colleague plans to pull this item from the agenda and I think that is the right decision."

Solis has not said when she plans to reintroduce the bill to the BOS.