Jail pink slips should send up a public safety S.O.S

February 14, 2010

Joe Cortez


San Luis Obispo Sheriff Pat Hedges recently had the unfortunate task of notifying 11 valued employees that they may soon be out of a job due to potential budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year. The loss of even one job in an economy such as this is troubling, but the repercussions of these particular cuts may have a far-reaching, long lasting and costly effect on the health and safety of our communities.

The 11 employees that may be laid off all happen to work in the county jail; 10 are correctional officers, and one is a jail technician. These potential job losses are due to a deficit in the sheriff’s budget that may be as high as $2 million in the coming year. Should these cuts occur, it will leave Sheriff Hedges with little choice but to close an inmate housing unit due to a lack of available correctional staff.

A jail housing unit typically contains 50 to 60 beds, meaning the cuts would translate into 50 to 60 inmates being released before they’ve fully paid their debt to society. Some people may argue that it is only low risk inmates who will be released, but the reality is that with all the various programs in place to divert convicted offenders away from incarceration there are fewer and fewer “low risk” inmates behind bars.

Consider that a substantial number of convictions in our courts occur as a result of plea bargains, dismissal of a felony charge upon a guilty plea to a misdemeanor such as a burglary charge being reduced to trespassing. As a result, the sentences being served by inmates often bear little semblance to the severity of the original crime. It is entirely possible for inmates with violent histories to be released early only because their current sentence was considered low risk. Take for example the case of Alberto Alvarez  who was recently convicted of murdering former Lompoc Police Officer Richard May. It just so happens that when Alvarez murdered officer May he was on the streets after being released early from prison for marijuana for sale, a non violent, low-level offense.

Previous cuts to the sheriff’s budget have primarily resulted in cutbacks to patrol staffing. Reduced patrols have been felt by residents living in our unincorporated communities and the outlying areas. The new cuts and resultant early release of 50 to 60 inmates will have a cost that will be borne by us all whether we live in cities or unincorporated towns. These inmates, many of whom are undereducated and short on job skills, are being released into a hard-hit economy where even college grads are having difficulty finding meaningful work. Add in California’s notoriously high recidivism rate and it seems like a sure recipe for increased crime victimization in our communities. These cuts are in addition to state budget cuts resulting in thousands of additional state prison inmates set for early release.

Former President Bill Clinton said, “Law and order is the first responsibility of government.” With tourism being our number one industry at over $1 billion per year, it is imperative that we maintain safe and healthy communities to attract tourists, create local jobs and maintain a quality of life we all can enjoy.

I have no doubt Sheriff Hedges will be a strong and effective advocate for additional funding to maintain necessary jail staffing. Our county supervisors have a long history of supporting public safety, and I ask that you join me in contacting your local supervisor to ensure safe communities are their number one priority during the upcoming budget preparations.

Joe Cortez is the former Chief of Police for the City of Pismo Beach, and a 30-year law enforcement veteran who has served 15 years as a chief of police. He is currently a candidate for Sheriff of San Luis Obispo County.

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Jail doesn’t work for squat anyway. What debt does being locked in a building for an apparently appropriate amount of time repay?

We’ve got a huge percentage of our population in jail, and they’ve got us terrified of letting any of these dangerous, criminal masterminds out.

Hopefully the recession will collapse our prison system and we can stop being fools long enough to build a sustainable system for implementing real justice.

A lot of them took a san luis 98% conviction rate plea bargain, here’s the ticket, ” NO VICTEM, NO CRIME,” let those criminals stuck away so they could pay, GO! Then they will have room for Gearhart and Miller, C. Miller, ( I think the marragige was planned to loose her bad name,) Jones, Snyder, Bucknell, Porter and that other crook from Heritage Oaks Bank. And give them two blankets one for bubba!

It seems like it would be a really cool idea for the “higher ups” to start working the streets againto both help save $$ and to become more aware with reality. Because this makes sense, it must not be a possibility though. I am guessing/thinking that it is probably in their contracts that they do not have to do that kind of work anymore.

I worked for the county for over 17 years and the common thread that seems to bind all the agenices together is the fact that if it makes common sense, then it has no place within the department.

I do not know enough about politics and how the BOS is run or even if they do have some super authority or if they are just figureheads themselves, but I think that if we were to start with them and clean house, getting rid of those who are less than forthcoming would be a great start. Second, move on to the department heads and handle them as well.

I also do not know who would be in charge of getting rid of whom. I wish somehow we could create a group of people who truly have the county’s population at heart, with no lobbying for a special cause. While I am spouting off about a pipedream, wouldn’t it be fabulous if San Luis Obipso County became a trendsetterin this endeavor. Other counties would follow our lead, it would catch on in other states, eventually hitting federal government. California has been known in the past as the forward thinking, trendsetting state. Just think what folks would think of this county if we were the beginning of the cleaned up government!

I know, I know, just a dream, but what if……………………

humm maybe instead of taking a pay raise last year they should have given it back to save jobs like many other departments did. The pay raises alone would have come close to covering it if not all of it.

Right on the money, you have a working brain, unlike the thin skinned old ladies in fear who are the ones they are selling this crap too, more kudoes.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey Zuke,

You should be getting a little hot and sweaty by now? I just wonder if anyone is sniffing around the story of your fine sheriff detective skills, that is….sleeping with a prostitute you were working as a snitch in atascadero and comprimising a major investigation with your pillow talk? But what the hey, what damage can be done in one minute or less? Hmmmm?……that’s alright, Mr. $666,000 buried that IA deep in the bottom drawer of the professional standards unit. But hey, only the best to you as the stellar leader of “ASSLOCDS.” See you Thursday!

PS – So now your complaining about the increases you’ve enjoyed over the last ten years? I’m hoping you can explain that to us Thursday. I’m also hoping that you come clean on the “tainted” prostitute pillow talk investigation…Now we’ll be watching for the “eyes high right” Zuke, no quibbling or fibbing!


It’s that era, my dad told me flat out that’s what all men do and he worked at CMC prison for twenty some years, and seems to share this guys veiws, somebody stop me, are all state and federal employees as corrupt as those who have taken control of San Luis Obispo?

So now we know 2 important things about Mr. Cortez:

1. He supports the status quo and cares only about salaries and benefits

2. He is willing to be a tool of Dale Strobridge, to get the DSA endorsement, which means if he were elected, he would not be respected by any of the sworn deputies and the in-fighting would continue.

No vote for Cortez!

Let me see now….besides the cops on paid leave and the guys making over $700,000 a year as a cop and let me see, the money the taxpayers have put out because our favorite deputies like to torture people in jail and kill people in trailer parks it seems to me the public needs to be protected from the county sheriffs department. Cortez just lost my vote…he just wants more of the same….”keep feeding me money or your lives are in jeopardy”…….Its pure extortion.

Do the math. That is over $181,000 per officer. The Sheriff’s Dept has been getting large increases to their budget for…ever, while other Depts have taken 10-20% cuts. Not to mention the large pay and pension benefit increases resulting from the recent tainted labor negotiations.

Still on the Cal Coast “front page” is the story of two deputies that are “double dipping”, and one, the Undersheriff, Steve Bolts, makes $722,000 A YEAR, and the apparently absent Pat Hedges is receiving some $340,000 A YEAR. Together that makes, what, over ONE MILLION dollars a year? Now that much is only half the projected deficit the sheriff’s department is facing, but come on! We need an active duty sheriff that EARNS his salary, and is paid JUST HIS SALARY, and we don’t need an Undersheriff either. Anyone else feel the same way?

Ask Ex-Sheriff Ed Williams if an Undersheriff is needed. He ran the Department with out one for years

Thank you Mr. Cortez for that unfortunate information.

I have heard that the Sheriff’s department is running at the same number of patrol Deputies has they had in the early 80’s. I for one know for a fact that the Sheriff’s north station regularly has only 2 Deputies patrolling during the Daytime hours. Some might think “Two deputies are plenty for the north county”, but let me remind you the north county Deputies provided service for almost 1600 sq miles.

Protection for the community should be the B.O.S top priority, and if that means cutting Administration positions ie: UnderSheriff, Commanders at the Stations. If that isn’t possible make these people that sit behind the desks and earn over $100,000 a year work the streets. It would do them some good to update there tactical awareness, and refresh their knowledge of patrol and provided additional support for the community.