Los Angeles is famous for all sorts of things, but the largest jails in the world? Yup, situated right across the street from one another and located right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles are The Twin Towers Jail and the Men’s Central Jail. These two massive facilities have the onerous ranking of being two of the world’s largest jails. Collectively, this downtown complex makes up the world’s largest jail facility.
The Twin Towers Correction Facility, aka, Twin Towers Jail is a goliath building located at 441 Bauchet Street. Originally referred to as the “Central Jail Expansion,” it is a 1.5 million square foot complex constructed and opened in 1997 after the Northridge Earthquake. The facility provides housing for over 2,000 inmates. The Towers jail was built on a modern Panoptic design. This system allows jail officers to look in through secure optical material and view all areas of the facility from a central control room. This helps them “keep an eye” on the maximum security inmates and a large portion of L.A. County’s mental health inmates. The Oscar-nominated actor Robert Downey Jr. served over one-hundred days at the Twin Tower facility for violating probation in failing to stay clean and sober. He was placed in a single-person cell at the facility because of his high-profile, celebrity status.
The Twin Towers facility consists of the two towers, a medical services building, and the Los Angeles County Medical Center Jail Ward. The Medical Services Building provides inpatient housing for inmates with various levels of acute medical and mental health needs. Inmates who require higher levels of health care service are transported to the Los Angeles County Medical Center operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Directly across the street from the Twin Towers Jail and connected by a transfer bridge is the Men’s Central Jail located at 450 Bauchet Street. It currently houses the majority of Los Angeles County’s high-risk, high-security inmates, and ranks as being the largest jail in the world. Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) houses approximately 5,000 inmates from all around Los Angeles County. Because the Men’s Central Jail is the largest jail in the world, the fiscal aspects of its operation are massive. MCJ’s budget is approximately $50,000,000 per year.
In order to relieve tensions and overcrowding in the Men’s Central Jail, inmates are sometimes transported across the way to the Twin Towers Jail. Cells in the Men’s Central Jail are literally filled to double the capacity intended. There are 200 three-man cells each holding six men. Additionally, there are 200 two-man cells each holding four men. Inmates are required three hours per week of time out of their cells. Yes, that’s per week.
The Los Angeles County jail system is also comprised of several smaller jails throughout the county. Often times, defendants who are arrested and booked at one of the smaller Los Angeles jails may be transported to the Twin Towers Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Because the smaller jails are intended as short-term holding.
Los Angeles County jails are not pleasant places to be incarcerated. Many people have described the Los Angeles County Jail System as scary, sometimes dangerous and perenially understaffed. It’s better to have read about them here and pondered, than to actually know what it’s like to be inside one of two largest jail facilities in the world.