The County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to scrap the $1.7 billion Men’s Central Jail Replacement Project in favor of a facility that will focus on mental health treatment.

Supervisors voted to end a contract with McCarthy Building Companies, which in 2018 was hired to design a replacement for the aged and dilapidated Men’s Central Jail on Bauchet Street.

The original plan was to raze and replace the jail with the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility, a 3,300-bed complex. However, in February the board changed direction, electing to pursue a plan that focuses on addressing and treating the estimated nearly 70% of jail inmates who suffer from a mental illness.

First District Supervisor Hilda Solis, who authored the motion alongside Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, said in a prepared statement that the county must focus on a “care first, jail last” model.  

According to a report from the Department of Public Works, the contract with McCarthy had to be canceled to meet the “care first” directive.

“Before we move forward with building an expensive new jail, we must address the mental and physical health needs of our jail population, many of whom can be safely diverted to community-based treatment facilities, which have better outcomes, and thereby increase public safety,” Solis said. “Today’s cancellation of the McCarthy contract creates an opportunity to begin to move in a new direction, towards this “care first, jail last” model, by first collecting essential data and greater community input.”

The new complex is expected to be a ring of small hospitals with a focus on rehabilitation, and would be overseen by the Department of Health Services. No designs, budget or timeline have been revealed.

©Los Angeles Downtown News 2019