Cell Mates


Graphic by Bryan Christie

Few of us ever plan on visiting Bauchet Street, but the short tree-lined avenue is home to a novel piece of architecture: the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Set on ten downtown acres amid a sloppy triangle formed by the 5, 101, and 110 freeways, the 1.5-million-square-foot jail opened in 1997. During construction, guards were posted to keep scavengers from breaking in. Now roughly 2,900 inmates are pining to get out.

1. The 8th Floor
Unlike state prisons, county jails are run by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, with deputies serving as guards. All told, about 120 sheriffs are on duty at one time. The top of Tower 1 is the executive floor, where the unit commanders and chiefs have their offices. 

2. The 7th Floor
Convicts in L.A. with mental health needs are sent to the Twin Towers, where about 39 percent of the inmates, including the few women housed here, suffer from mental disorders. The most extreme cases are held on this floor.

3. Inmate Reception Center
Arrestees spend their first 10 to 24 hours at the IRC. The average sentence used to be about 40 days, but with a new policy that sends nonviolent criminals to county jails instead of state prisons, some inmates face stretches of up to ten years.

4. Tower 2
This tower is one story shorter than its twin. Due to budget cuts that eliminated 300 sheriff positions, Tower 2 has closed several floors and now contains about 670 inmates compared with approximately 2,230 in Tower 1. 

5. The Core
Every detention floor in the towers features a transparent control booth at its center surrounded by six pods—dormitory-like housing units that each hold 60 to 70 inmates. This design allows the deputy manning the booth to observe three pods at a time.

6. The Basement
Beneath Tower 1 is the kitchen, where a mix of civilian and inmate employees prepare more than 9,000 meals a day for the inmates and 750 for the staff. 

7. Bauchet Street
When their sentence is completed, convicts are released onto Bauchet Street, where there is a bank of pay phones they can use to arrange transportation. 

8. The Windows
The tall, narrow openings on the exterior of the jail are designed to maximize sunlight without allowing a person to exit or a significant amount of contraband to enter.

Graphic by Bryan Christie

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