In this guide, I will explain everything you need to know about men’s central jail in Los Angeles County.
Let’s get started…
But first, watch this video about my advice on phone calls and conversations inside the jail.
Mens Central Jail does not house any female inmates which are secured at Century Regional Detention facility.
Some inmates may be moved between the following facilities depending on the circumstances.
Men That Are Housed Here Are Accused Of What Types Of Crimes?
Most inmates at MCJ have committed or are accused of committing class A/B misdemeanors though it does house inmates who have or who are accused of having committed felonies ranging from:
Note: On October 1, 2019 the bail system in California is scheduled to change with the passage of Senate Bill 10. The bill provides for the elimination of cash bail and for it to be replaced by a system of judicial discretion for felonies with an important change that no misdemeanors will require bail.
Bail is a process that ensures that a defendant will appear at all compulsory future court appearances by the payment of money. If the individual makes all appearances, then the bail funds are returned to the defendant.
Bail can be paid by a number of methods: cash, bond, certified check or money order. The bail amount is usually pre-established by the nature of the offense but it also depends on the inmate’s criminal record, community connections, danger to the community and flight risk. An inmate or his/her attorney can argue for bail reduction by making a motion for a bail hearing.
To post bail, the entire amount must be paid. Once paid, the inmate is released. Once the matter is resolved or proceedings completed either by dismissal, plea or verdict, the bail is returned to the inmate absent an administrative fee. Should an inmate fail to make an appearance, the court can revoke bail and the cash is forfeited to the court.
Another method of meeting the bail amount is by obtaining a cashier’s check. These can only be drawn from a California bank and made payable to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Cashier’s checks are obtained at banks or credit unions where you have an account.
Also, include the inmate’s name and booking number on the check.
Money orders are just another form of a secured form of payment but usually have a limit of up to $1000 while cashier’s checks are unlimited. These can be purchased at grocery or convenience stores.
Bail can be in the thousands of dollars so getting a bail bond is typically the most common way of securing an inmate’s release. To obtain one, you must come up with 8-10% of the bail amount that is paid to a bail bondsman. The fee to the bondsman is not refundable under any circumstances. Again, if the inmate absconds or fails to make a required court appearance, the court may forfeit the bail. If so, the bond agency can come after you for the entire bail amount.
Verifying a money order or cashier’s check can take hours while a bond can shorten the time. Still, it may take several hours in any case before an inmate is released once bail has been posted in any form. It depends on the time of day the bail was posted and other factors.
Posting bail does not mean that that amount cannot be reduced or that you cannot be released O.R. By requesting a bail hearing, you or your attorney can argue for a reduction or that you be released OR.
If you wish to locate an inmate at MCJ, wait at least 2 hours after the individual has been booked. If you have access to a computer with internet access, go to the Inmate Information Center website.
Enter the inmate’s name and birth date or the booking number if you know it. Another alternative is to call the LA Inmate Reception Center (IRC) at (213) 473-6100.
You can obtain the person’s booking number as well as bail information for the inmate, his next court date and where he is being housed.
Visiting hours at MCJ are Thursday to Sunday between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Attorneys and clergy are not restricted to these hours though there are unofficial attorney hours from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. Clergy usually visit during certain hours as well.
If planning a visit, you are encouraged to call first since there are occasional lock downs or other changes to the visiting hours for that day. Also, a particular inmate may have lost visiting privileges.
Inmates are allowed one visit per visiting day with no more than 3 persons, including family members, per visit. Any visitor under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Additionally, all visitors must have a valid, government-issued photo ID which may be any of the following:
- California driver’s license
- California ID card
- US passport
- Alien registration card
- US military card
You are not permitted to visit if you are of the following status:
- On formal probation
- Have an outstanding warrant
- Previously served time in a California state prison
You can still visit if you are on formal probation if you receive permission from the unit commander at the jail before you arrive.
You are not permitted to bring anything to an inmate. All visitors are searched. Also, please leave the following items behind and do not bring them into the visiting lobby:
- Cell phones
- Pads or other writing tablets
- Recording devices
- Weapons including knives or firearms regardless if you have a license to possess
Inmates at the MCJ are not allowed to receive incoming calls so he must call you. When booked, the inmate has one free call that he can make. Afterwards, the inmate can either call you collect or with a prepaid calling card that he can purchase at the commissary. So that the inmate has the funds to do so, you will have to deposit funds with the jail under a process described below.
You can also purchase a calling card for the inmate but only from the commissary. Do not send one in the mail or it will be confiscated. If the inmate wants to call you collect, be sure that your phone carrier allows collect calls as well as calls from a prepaid calling card.
To obtain a prepaid calling card for the inmate, go to the Keefe Commissary website and create an account.
When entering MCJ, you will surrender any items on your person including your wallet or anything else in your immediate possession. This includes a vehicle if you were arrested while driving one or if it was involved in the commission of a crime.
All items are inventoried and stored. When you are released, these items are returned to you. You can designate another person to collect these items for you. The designated individual may pick up your property by going to the lobby of the IRC between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm. They will need to have a Property Release Form from the on-duty custody staff. The individual may have to wait 24-48 hours after submitting the form before the property may be collected.
If a vehicle needs to be retrieved, you or your designate must contact the arresting agency, which may be the CHP. The department will advise you of where the vehicle is located. If it has been impounded, however, it will likely not be released depending on whether it was used as evidence in a crime or if it may contain contraband. For instance, it may be impounded if you were arrested for vehicular manslaughter, transporting controlled substances, as a get-away vehicle or for DUI. You will need to contact an attorney regarding your options for retrieving it as it may be impounded for a specific time.
For information on inmate property, call (213) 893-4428
Mail is important to inmates as it provides a connection to loved ones. There is also no limit on the length of your written correspondence To send mail, you will need the inmate’s booking number. Send your correspondence to:
(Name of Inmate)
(Booking number–7 digits)
P.O. Box 86164, Terminal Annex
Los Angeles, CA 90086-0164
Do not send drugs or other illegal items in the mail and do not tape the letter. You can be prosecuted if you do so. No packages can be sent from you unless they originate from the Keefe Commissary or from a bookstore if you ordered books or magazines for the inmate.
A list of items that are not allowed to be sent include:
- Any kind of tape on the envelope
- Prepaid calling cards
- Cash, checks, blank money orders or traveller’s checks
- Blank, musical or plastic postcards or greeting cards larger than 6”x 9”
- Any money order over $200
- Post office money orders from outside California
- Lottery tickets
- Blank envelopes
- Envelopes with any attachments such as staples. clips or clasps or glued labels
- Postage stamps
- No gang or suggestive artwork on envelopes
No inmate may possess more than 5 photographs, none of which may be lewd or even sexually suggestive. The photos may not be smaller than 2’x3’ or larger than 4”x 6”. Photos of persons wearing gang colors or having any association or link to a gang are prohibited.
You can send up to 3 books or magazines per week so long as they are not sexually explicit and sent directly from a bookstore or online store. As indicated herein, food and prepaid calling cards may only be sent through the Keefe Commissary website.
You can send funds to an inmate by depositing it in the inmate’s “bank account” that is kept at the jail. Funds in the account may only be used by the inmate to purchase food and other items at the commissary. No more than $200 may be mailed at any one time.
Do not send cash in the mail. The jail will only accept cashier checks drawn on a California bank as well as only US Postal money orders. Mail these to:
(Name of Inmate)
(Booking number–7 digits)
P.O. Box 86164, Terminal Annex
Los Angeles, CA 90086-0164
In-person deposits, including cash, may be made any day of the week between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm with the cashier at the Inmate Reception Center located at:
450 Bauchet Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
You must posses a valid, government-issued photo ID when making an in-person deposit. You can call the cashier’s office at (213) 473-6049 for information or for further inmate deposit questions, call (213) 893-5875.
Inmates are allowed commissary funds to be used for purchasing food, prepaid calling cards, hygiene items, art supplies, clothing and other products. As indicated above, anyone can send money to the inmate’s in-house bank account in-person or by mail. There are self-service kiosks in the jail lobby where funds may be deposited or you can deposit funds with the jail cashier between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm on any day of the week.
For food and snack items, the Keefe Commissary has 4 different giftpacks that can be purchased.
The Los Angeles Sheriffs Department’s Medical Services Bureau is the largest of its kind in the world. It has physicians, nurses, dental staff, pharmacies, radiology and labs that serve between 15,000 and 20,000 inmates in the county correctional system.
Mental and Physical Health
When brought to the Inmate Reception Center (IRC), the inmate is given a mental health screening. If your loved one is at a city jail and you are concerned about your loved one’s condition, contact the Watch Commander and let him know that your relative has mental illness issues and describe the condition and diagnosis. You can ask that the person be transferred to the County Jail IRC. Should your relative have severe mental health issues, ask that a “5150” hold be placed on the individual, which is a 3-day involuntary hold at a psychiatric facility. Medications are available at the hospital or the County IRC.
If your relative is an inmate with serious medical and/or mental health issues, you may send a fax with the information described below to:
Mental Health Services
If there are medical issues, then also send the same fax to:
Medical Services Bureau
Include the following information in your fax:
- Inmate’s name
- Birth date
- Booking number
- Location of inmate
- Name and contact information of psychiatrist
- Medications including dosage and when to be administered
- Side effects
- History of suicide or aggression with brief description of episodes
- Urgent medical conditions that may require immediate attention such as diabetes, heart problems or high blood pressure
- Name of treating physician and contact information to verify the inmate’s condition
- Ask that inmate sign a waiver of confidentiality or fax one if the inmate/relative has signed a previous one
The MCJ has a fully equipped hospital to treat most inmate illnesses and other medical and mental issues. Inmates with severe problems are transferred to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility for treatment.
Jails are obviously not pleasant places since they house violent and mentally ill inmates. The guards are under constant stress from attacks by inmates and having to deal with fights, complaints, stealing, drugs and non-cooperation. Still, it is not uncommon for guards to be overly aggressive toward certain inmates.
A 2015 article in Mother Jones magazine cited MCJ as one of the 10 worst jails or prisons in America while referring to an ACLU lawsuit that alleged numerous episodes of jail staff taunting inmates with homophobic slurs along with beatings and taserings. Inmate complaints were routinely dismissed as unfounded and injuries suffered by inmates were classified as unprovoked inmate-on-deputy assaults. There has been an ongoing FBI investigation into staff abuses. Sheriff Lee Baca has admitted that at least some of the reported staff assaults are
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