11:43 PM PDT on Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

The Sacramento tax stalemate and Gov. Jerry Brown’s unfunded plan to put thousands of state prisoners back in county jails are front-burner issues faced by local law enforcement, Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach said Thursday.

Zellerbach, who was among several local officials to meet recently with Brown when he visited Riverside County, said the governor’s realignment plan would put 1,549 state prison inmates back in Riverside County. It could send 37,000 to 38,000 inmates back to local jails statewide.

The district attorney, who took office Jan. 3, addressed the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce’s “Good Morning Riverside” breakfast at the Mission Inn.

In addition to the returned inmates, Brown also has called for the counties to take over from the state the parole duties of monitoring inmates’ conduct for a designated time after their release.

Brown has signed the legislation to enact the plan but has said none of it will take effect until funds are available.

Money is not the whole issue, Zellerbach told the crowd.

Riverside County and several others throughout the state operate under a federal court order capping the number of inmates its jail cells can hold.

While the county has recently done better in keeping those numbers down, Zellerbach said Thursday jail populations “come close to that cap on a daily basis.”

County supervisors Monday took steps that all but assured they will shelve plans to build a projected $300 million jail slated for the desert community of Whitewater, citing the cost in hard economic times.

Sending more than 1,500 inmates back is “a problem here in Riverside County. These criminals are the supposedly less-violent criminals — they’re convicted felons who’ve been sent to prison. But it’s all relative, I guess,” Zellerbach said.

“Realignment may be a good idea in concept, but with all the things the governor is proposing it can’t happen immediately,” Zellerbach said.

“It can’t be just the governor’s plan, you have to work through it with law enforcement, the cities and the counties, because they are going to have to bear a lot of these costs and the funding has to be in place.”

Zellerbach said he does believe the county can do a better job of monitoring paroled inmates, once the plan is in place.

He also expressed frustration with the lack of movement toward resolving Brown’s proposal to extend taxes as a prong of getting the state budget under control.

Brown wanted to put the proposals before voters in June but could not the get the needed votes from Republicans in the Legislature.

One of the taxes affected is the vehicle license fee.

Zellerbach said $2.5 million annually goes to the Riverside County district attorney’s office and is used for prosecutor programs and juvenile justice intervention such as the Youth Accountability Program.

“I am not a big fan of taxes,” Zellerbach, a Republican in the nonpartisan office, told the crowd.

To read entire story, click here.