Inmates to move to local jails
Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 04/11/2011 08:36:41 PM PDT
San Bernardino County Sheriff Rod Hoops says there’s just no room in his jails to handle the county’s share of thousands of low-level criminals who could be transferred to county lockups from state prisons.
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, which aims to ease prison overcrowding and help cut California’s $15.4 billion deficit.
Up to 30,000 state inmates – adult offenders convicted of nonserious, nonviolent and nonsexual offenses – would be shifted over three years to local jails.
Locally, county jails are in the same crowded position as the state’s prisons.
“The daily population within our four detention facilities is 5,7000 inmates, which fills us to capacity. Removing state inmates
from state prisons to house them in county jails causes concern,” Hoops said.
“If we are forced to receive state inmates, county inmates would be released from our county jails.”
Brown administration officials said AB 109 won’t go into effect until funding is secured.
Brown had counted on a temporary extension of the vehicle and sales taxes to fund the realignment plan, but Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to support a tax extension election.
Counties would have received $4.9 billion in the next five years to implement the transfer through Brown’s proposed tax extension, state corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.
State officials expect to save $2 billion annually through the transfer. In his budget released in January, Brown said local governments would get funded through tax extensions.
Brown is travelling throughout the state to lobby for public support of a future tax extension to fund his budget plan.
“For too long, the state’s prison system has been a revolving door for lower-level offenders and parole violators who are released within months – often before they are even transferred out of a reception center,” Brown said. “Cycling these offenders through state prisons wastes money, aggravates crowded conditions, thwarts rehabilitation, and impedes local law enforcement supervision.
Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, said the public isn’t likely to support tax extensions because of a public safety risk associated with A.B. 109.
“The county jails do not have the capacity to take the state inmates so there’s going to be a release of county jail prisoners on to the streets,” Hagman said.
The law only affects offenders convicted after July 1, with current inmates remaining under the state’s supervision.
Brown previously made concessions to local law enforcement by changing his original plan to keep more serious criminals and juveniles under state control.
A second bill signed by Brown, AB 111, is designed to help speed up state bond funding for building local jails.
State Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said realignment would allow local officials to do a better job of getting services to lower level offenders.
“Local government knows these offenders. They came from their neighborhoods. And if properly funded, they can do a good job of supervising them, treating them and incarcerating those short-term offenders,” Cate said.
Reducing the prison population would also go a long way to meet the concerns of federal judges, he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring whether California must reduce the number of inmates in order to improve medical and mental health treatment.
“Obviously, it’s a big change, a big paradigm shift, but if you look at the problems in the prisons over the last 20 years, it’s been about two major things – overcrowding and the size of the system itself that makes it not as nimble as a smaller system,” Cate said.
“You get kind of a leaner, smaller, less crowded prison system” under the realignment, Cate said, although he acknowledged that “there will be a lot of bumps in the road the first year or two as we try to figure this out.”
The realignment plan would help with crowding, said Lt. Felix Figueroa, spokesman for the California Institution for Women in Chino.
“This will definitely relieve any overcrowding with the population in decline,” Figueroa said. “It will afford us more living and programming space. The more the population comes down, the more we can use space where inmates live for other programs.”
But experts and law enforcement officials say the plan could harbor some drawbacks.
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