Everyone agrees the jails surrounding Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles are obsolete and need to be either torn down or totally renovated. And the latest proposal (which can be read at KPCC's blog) by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is to convert part of one of the structures into a mental health facility for jail inmates.
The problem is most of these discussions ignore the other problem facing that neighborhood. While multiple levels of government are spending billions to make this neighborhood one of the world's busiest mass transit facilities, the two largest land uses withing walking distance of Union Station are prisons and the storage, maintenance and repair of government vehicles.
The long run solution needs to include moving all the jail facilities away from Union Station and the LA River - even if they remain in the same general area. Billions of dollars have already been spent and the eventual cost will be in the tens of billions to make Union Station the transportation hub of all of Southern California. Any development within walking distance of Union Station or the LA River in that area should be high density mixed use development to provide non-rush hour passengers that will help amortize the costs and building and running the system.
Another potential bonus for the County - besides a more financially sustainable mass transit system in the long run - is that this will raise the long term value of the current jail facilities when it is time to sell them.