March 15, 2010 5:40 PM
Beatriz Valenzuela

Since the inception of the early release program in January, 643 inmates have been released from the four local San Bernardino County Sheriff’s jails — with most offenders out in half the time they’d been sentenced to serve.

“We will still continue to monitor them like we did before,” Arden Wiltshire, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s station, said. “For us it will be business as usual.”

Previously, an inmate had to serve at least two-thirds of their sentence before being eligible for early release, according to officials. But following a legislative move by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce overcrowding and trim a tight budget, lower-level offenders were given the opportunity starting Jan. 25 to reduce their jail time if they qualified for a new program.

“Now it’s about half,” Wiltshire said.

According to CDCR officials, of the 168,000 inmates in the California prison system, only about 18 percent will be eligible for unrevocable parole. Convicted sex offenders, arsonists and those found guilty of violent crimes are not eligible for early release.

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Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at (760) 951-6276 or at