LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A proposal to tear down part of Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles to build a treatment center for mentally ill inmates has gained the approval of county officials.

KNX 1070’s Bill Polish reports the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to study a plan to replace at least one tower of the jail with a mental health and substance abuse treatment center.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who introduced the motion, said the proposed facility would house all mentally ill inmates – including those with substance abuse disorders – as well as inmates who suffer from certain medical conditions that require segregation from the general inmate population.

Yaroslavsky estimated there are over 2,000 mentally ill inmates currently in the county jail system.

“It makes [it] the biggest mental health hospital in California, maybe in the country,” he said. “Our jail is not designed to tend to the needs of mentally ill people.”

Yaroslavsky estimated the recidivism rate – the rate at which convicts relapse into criminal behavior – could drop by as much as two-thirds with an improved treatment facility.

The motion calls for Vanir Construction Management to perform an analysis of the proposal in conjunction with the County Sheriff and Mental Health departments.

Vanir is expected to submit its findings by July 16.

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