The LA County Jail doesn’t need tearing down, it needs Rick Caruso.
The Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail is an overcrowded dungeon, a house of horrors for pre-trial prisoners, the physically disabled, the mentally ill, and even jail visitors. An ongoing federal investigation into allegations of brutality at MCJ has exposed ghastly conditions, corruption, excessive force, free roaming retaliation, and secretive factions of Sheriff’s deputies and jailers.
In other words, give me a better location for a mixed-use mall and I’ll show you how to shake a set of handcuffs!
With the fate of Men’s Central uncertain, why not take a page from the old-timey tours and gift shops currently operated at Folsom and Alcatraz? Or from Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, fresh from its annual reunion of former guards and inmates? Even better, why not go upscale and consider something along the lines of Boston’s quaint Liberty Hotel, formerly known as the infamous Charles Street Jail? All are popular tourist attractions that generate big bucks, serve as walkable warnings to the wayward, and provide the public with glimpses into America’s penal history – and future.
Too soon for a custody-themed Cellblock Shopping Town? Too “insensitive” of an idea? What’s stopping us, bad taste? Ha! Prison ideation saturates media and advertising anyway, so why not give the secret “crimeshopper” in all of us a little fun?
Let’s go from jail rats to mall rats and rake in the tax revenue!
Why not plan a “Shopping Daycation” around a jail-themed Apple Store or J.Crew? Men’s Central will forever be remembered as O.J. Simpson’s courtroom hotel and where lady-puncher Chris Brown will spend his 25th birthday: why shouldn’t the city cash in? Yet turning a civil rights cesspool like LA’s Men’s Central Jail into one of SoCal’s hippest destinations for designer handbags and iPhones is the one idea no one has proposed.
Until now. Welcome to The Fashion Industrial Complex – the Mall at Men’s Central Jail.
Only one man can deliver on such a tall order: Retail Superman and Mixed-use Mall Developer Extraordinaire Rick J. Caruso. Yes, former President of the Los Angeles Police Commission Rick Caruso. And finally, one L.A. real estate mogul the County Supervisors can hire without ending up with segregated restrooms.
Caruso could come up with a jail-themed food court and a performing arts stage like the one erected for Johnny Cash inside the Folsom Prison dining hall (of course Cash’s music would be piped in over the mall-wide speaker system as well). Sports bars with names like Acquittals and Warning Shots could “compete” for the attention of adult children shoppers; novelty guard towers could surprise guests hourly by “firing” confetti cannons into the common areas. (This would be quickly cleared away by janitors in jail blues as they live-act that hallowed custody pastime: sweeping.)
Follow the yellow line to the restrooms and the blue one to a mall directory! And those cutesy LED lights that are wrapped around the trees? How about fiber optic glow lights designed to simulate the concertina wire atop chain-link perimeter fences! A special electronically programmed light show for the kiddies could be kicked off every 30 minutes by the sound of escape alarms, and I can see the promotional tagline now: Historic Lofts – Fine Chow Hall Dining – Premium Shopping: “Live-Work-Parole!”
Caruso Affiliated, of course, is known for ripping the roofs off concrete, bunker-like shopping malls and turning them inside out. So who better to reverse the clammy and oppressive world of Men’s Central Jail than the man who created such polished utopias as The Grove, the Americana at Brand, The Calabasas Commons, and the Marina Waterside? Hell, wouldn’t a Caruso jail itself be better than a real one (that doesn’t even work)?
Besides being a great way to benefit the local economy (heads up, Mayor Garcetti!), such a venue would serve the employees of downtown’s courts buildings and allow the neighboring Twin Towers jail to regain its former glory, like back when it was just another proposed jail expansion concept.
Where prisoners were once justly confined, the public will now be safely confined to walkways made of cobblestones carved from the old building and treated to a central fountain made from rusted and broken plumbing, a prison laundry cart choo-choo, and of course, hidden speakers softly playing the aforementioned Man in Black. Darkened chambers once filled with rampaging sodomites will now feature Santa’s Village and Sephora.
Here’s a private prison everyone will love!
And just like in jails and prisons everywhere, hierarchy among “cons” will rule the day. Are you sitting on my bench? Yes, reserve a public bench by the hour so you and the kids can shoo away the unwelcome with rentable MY BENCH™ tasers!
Or perhaps you’d care to pay for that fabulous pair of shoes ahead of everyone else. Just swipe your Prison Privilege Card and you’ll be granted access to a separate cashier counter ready to serve the town’s most revered residents.
To fulfill a civic responsibility, of course, retired LA County Sheriff’s deputies and former MCJ prisoners alike could be invited annually to regale enthralled audience with fond memories about their time “onsite.” A Q&A session could be an additional opportunity for promotion and product placement.
But simply calling it the Men’s Central Jail Mall? No, we need a better name. It’s clear the word “jail” has to go, and the new moniker should infer a serene and homogenized shopping experience that can be marketed as all things to all people. Finally, in order to pass off a rainbow of standard corporate retailers as cultural variety, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t be aiming for outlets…
-The Yard at LA River
-Contraband Premium Outlets
-Lock-down Shopping Town
-Control Unit Commons
-Out of Bounds Fashion Central
And I don’t know, The Ding Wing? Maximum Security Maul? Thread Man Walking? Anyone?
This week, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will address what to do with the crumbling Men’s Central Jail and it’s reputation for embarrassing the city. Will it be torn down? Will it be expanded and made into even more of a Winchester Mystery House than it’s already become? Will it be replaced with a “campus-like” facility, as has been proposed?
I propose it becomes Rick Caruso’s themed retail masterpiece.
After all, this is the facility that became the subject of a now famous FBI investigation, following the California prison system’s being handed over to federal receivership in 2006. And that is what truly kicked the current national dialogue on prison reform into high gear.
So I say this particular facility deserves something special, and why not a Crate & Barrel? I, for one, am looking forward to an entirely different sort of “dining experience” at The Mall at Men’s Central Jail.
Tags: Alcatraz, Apple, Caruso Affiliated, Charles Street Jail, Chris Brown, Crate & Barrel, Eastern State Penitentiary, Folsom Prison, iPhone, J.Crew, Los Angeles County Sheriff, Men's Central Jail, mixed-use mall, O.J. Simpson, Rick Caruso, Sephora, sports bar, the Liberty Hotel, Winchester Mystery House