It wasn't like a TV show or a movie I can tell you that. A visit inside the 50 year-old Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles was a visit back in time to clanking bars and rusted metal beds and dark corridors and leaking pipes and crowding and ‘'no talking'' signs stenciled on the walls.
I set up a vist through the LA County Sheriff's department media relations folks, continuing to take outgoing Sheriff Lee Baca up on his offer to the media to inspect the jails for ourselves. A couple of weeks ago it was the relatively modern ‘Twin Towers', today across the street, MCJ as it's called, built in the early 60's updated in 73, and now the subject of debate. (read more about it at http://sheriff.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/lasd)
Should it be torn down and replaced? Probably. Do we want to pay for it ? Probably not. How much will it cost ? Not sure, but the number will most certainly start with a "B' as in Billion. Will a new sheriff make it a priority ? What about at least two new L.A. County Supervisors that will be coming in ? It's going to be controversial, especially since this is the place where most of the alleged abuse of inmates took place, relating to the recent indictments by the Department of Justice of eighteen Deputies and senior personnel.
During my visit, I interviewed the Captain in charge, one of the Supervisory Sergeants, and two inmates, as supplied by the Sheriff. It's a little complicated to interview inmates, with consent forms and privacy issues, so normally I like to pick my own interviewees but it wasn't possible in this case. Still it seemed like the two inmates, one in for drug sales one in for theft, were candid. They were in the EBI , short for Education Based Initiative program which offers inmates a chance to take classes to better themselves so they'll be better people once they get out. Hopefully it'll work in the case of the two men I spoke with, James and Rudy, they were on their third ‘'visit ‘' to MCJ.