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LA's Men's Central Jail plagued by overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, violence

The Men's Central Jail near downtown Los Angeles continues to be plagued by overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, along with inmate-on-inmate assaults and the use of excessive force by sheriff's deputies, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to the ACLU, the allegations are based on observations by jail monitors, interviews with inmates and inmate complaints gathered between 2008 and 2009.

"Men's Central Jail is a modern-day medieval dungeon, a dank, windowless place where prisoners live in fear of retaliation and abuse apparently goes unchecked," said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "The jail is not an appropriate facility for housing prisoners with mental illness, many of whom do not receive proper treatment for their mental illness.

ACLU attorney on new report on LA Men's Central Prison conditions from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

"At the root of the many problems plaguing this toxic facility is overcrowding and the only solutions are to either reduce the jail population dramatically or close it," he said.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore told KPCC's Patt Morrison today that Baca is planning a more modern facility to replace Men's Central.

"Men’s Central Jail has outlived its usefulness years ago," Whitmore said. "(Baca's) moving forward with a plan that would eliminate the jail and, in its place, erect a high tech modern facility that would be much more effective when it comes to the safety and security of the inmates, which is paramount, and the deputy sheriffs that guard them."

Whitmore did not elaborate on the proposed new facility.

The Men's Central Jail, 441 Bauchet St., is the largest jail in the world, housing an average of about 5,000 inmates, according to the ACLU and Sheriff's Department. The facility was built in 1963 and was designed to house 3,323 inmates. It was expanded in 1976, and it now has a capacity of about 6,750 inmates, according to the Sheriff's Department website.

The jail has an annual operating budget of nearly $50 million.