Los Angeles County operates the world’s largest jail system, and despite an incarceration rate well below the national average, its jails remain critically overcrowded.
Individuals with mental health needs are overrepresented in Los Angeles County jails and are in need of alternative services and community-based options. In 2016, 25% of the inmate population was receiving some level of mental health treatment.
Because the Los Angeles County jails are critically overcrowded, people in the jail with mental health issues are often too ill to be safely housed in a multi-person cell, causing further crowding in general population housing areas.
Prior to the county’s involvement in the Safety and Justice Challenge, approximately 40% of the inmate population was comprised of pre-trial inmates, those awaiting trial or sentencing. The partially sentenced population, which includes those who were sentenced on one or more cases and maintained open charges in another case or cases, made up approximately 20% of the overall population. This leaves very little jail capacity to hold people convicted of criminal activity and hampers in-custody rehabilitative efforts.