Plans to divert state prisoners to county jails

January 5, 2011

Newly inaugurated Gov. Jerry Brown will propose shifting low-level offenders from state prisons to county jails as one of many budget cuts to shrink California’s $28 billion deficit. [CaliforniaWatch]

But this solution also poses a number of problems. First among them: Where are the counties supposed to house these inmates?

The state’s prisons are massively overcrowded, and the U.S. Supreme Court is to rule in the coming months on whether to force the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to decrease its inmate population.

An order from a lower federal court requires the state to move roughly 27,000 prisoners out of the state facilities to ease the space crunch and improve medical services.

Should the top court uphold that order, California has few options on where to send its overflow inmates.

The corrections department might direct some to private prison facilities. It could provide early release to inmates, though this option is likely too politically difficult. Or it can ship prisoners to county jails.

Brown hasn’t yet announced any of the specifics behind his county jail proposal.

How many prisoners would the state transfer to local facilities? How much money would be saved? Which “low-level offenders” would be moving? And to which county jails?

California’s local jails are crowded as well, and have been reducing their loads.

As of a year ago (the most recent data available), county jails housed 73,900 inmates, down 9 percent from the first quarter of 2009. About 30 percent of the county jail inmates have been sentenced (as opposed to those awaiting trial or sentencing).

Should Brown opt to send some 20,000 prisoners to county jails, that would about double their “sentenced” populations, possibly overwhelming the facilities.

In 2007, state lawmakers passed AB 900 to address the shortage of inmate housing. Out of $7.4 billion in bond sales approved for jail construction, $1.2 billion of that was to fund expansion of county facilities, adding 13,000 beds.
However, the state and counties have not yet completed a single AB 900 project, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.

Jail construction has been stalled by lawsuits over environmental concerns and by the financial downturn.

“Maybe it’s been a little slower than I’d thought, but given what it takes to build a new large, public works project in California, it doesn’t surprise me where we’re at,” state Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Anaheim, told the Chronicle.


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13 Comments

  1. bulwark says:

    They tell us that we need to offer these sweet salaries with benefits so we can attract the best.
    I guess my question is, what if we drop their salaries and get substandard prison guards.
    Who cares? Their prison guards. not rocket scientists.

    Anyway, nothing will change until the lobbiests are brought under control. And so much relection money is at stake, I doubt that it will ever happen.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. standup says:

    The whole judicial system in this county and state is one big machine. Make more laws, arrest more people, hired more prosecutors and guards, judges, etc. and feed the unions who represent these over paid people. If California was its own country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the WORLD! Our budget problems are right in front of us and we have rougue cops going after state compliant mmj collectives? Houston, we have a major freakin problem. This state is going to implode soon and all those fat pensions will wither away.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
    • willie says:

      If you Goggle the Web, you will find that about a couple of years ago the ratio was 1 out of every 100 people in the nation were incarcerated or on parole or probation and approximately a year ago the ratio was 1 out of every 50 people for California. This year we have 725 new laws, its impossible not to be a criminal.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. Bob says:

    The real problem is the cost of state correctional officers, who are classified under state law as police officers. A study by San Jose State indicates that a San Francisco Police Officer working 1 hour of over time actually costs $2,000 per hour when life time pension and benefits are calculated into the true cost. Yes, over time pay increases the retirement rate by allowing the officers retirement pay to be calculated on total earnings.

    Although this study is based on a San Francisco Police Officer, the pay and benefits of state correctional officers are similar if not better.

    I am not bashing the correctional officers or the work they do, However, the public must step up and demand that our elected officials stop the extremely over generous gravy train of public pensions and benefits. We need a strong law that mandates full public disclosure reporting the true total costs of public employee pay, benefits, including life time pension and benefit costs. Public services are being reduce annually in order to pay the ever increasing unsustainable and unrealistic pay of public employees. In the next few years this problem will surpass the epidemic stage and become a catastrophic liability to the future of California and force a extreme financial burden on tax payers who are not even born yet.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
  4. SanSimeonSam says:

    Privatize the entire system. That would save BILLIONS every year. There are 65,000 employees plus who knows how many retirees on the state dole collecting very high salaries. Over 40% of these employees make 100K plus a year. Thats way too much….When they retire and usually in their 50’s they get full medical plus up to 90% of their salary. How do we sustain that…..There are 139 dentists in the system…6 of them make over 600K a year…..30 of them make over 350K a year and the lowest paid dentist makes about 140K a year. (and they retire young and are replaced) How do we sustain that. I don’t want to pay for that. Ship the prisoners out of state or privatize. If the prisons didn’t pamper these people, the fear of prison might act as a cause to pause for criminals.

    (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down
  5. danika says:

    If this is true, why are the large dorms at CMC being vacated and those dorm residents being diverted to smaller dorms and out of state to Arizona? No lack of space at CMC, apparently.

    If we have THAT many prisoners, perhaps we have too many laws…just sayin…

    (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
  6. racket says:

    We got no room at County Lockup because we’re too busy housing medical marijuana participants.

    (13) 23 Total Votes - 18 up - 5 down
  7. calvertworthington says:

    ‘Privitized’ (corporate) prisons are not cost free from public funds, and they are not regulated to the same degree as State prisons. Also, they make mistakes involving escapes (most recently the two murderer escapees from AZ that split up. One killed a couple that were camping. (Later caught in Wyoming w/ his GF)).

    Perhaps this plan have prison bound inmates kept at Co. jails may coincide with a re-evaluation of prison terms for the ridiculous drug offenses. How many inmates could be outside of prisons if that were the case?

    (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
    • willie says:

      What about privitizing prison for the less violent, less risky ones.
      Its a space/ cost/ budget problem, what are some viable options if any?

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
      • zaphod says:

        How about mass commutation of drug sentences in California across the board.

        (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
  8. willie says:

    Partially out-source or privatized prisons like they do in other states, this will save govenment cost and boost private business and employment.

    (-6) 18 Total Votes - 6 up - 12 down
  9. GrayGranny says:

    This plan scares me. Our family is only protected because the individual who repeatedly and violently violated a family member is currently incarcerated in a California state prison. It is only because he is incarcerated that we have temporary peace of mind. The judicial system failed us the first time due to a SLO County district attorney’s error but of course, the offender “hit” one more time and this time the victim, our loved one, had enough courage to push to have this individual prosecuted (yet again).

    I do not have the answers to fix California’s budget troubles but I do know relocating an offender to a county jail (closer to his/her victim) is not okay no matter what the cost savings. I can only hope and pray that our new governor does not return offenders to the communities where their offenses occurred and the victims reside. Also, county jails are more transient in nature thus allowing prisoners to manipulate soon-to-be released inmates for the purpose of contacting victims and/or their families. I personally cannot envision how moving prisoners from one facility to another will save any significant amount of money … they will have all the same needs from food to medical to clothing, etc.

    Our judicial system is very broken (for offenders and victims) and that is the problem that should be examined.

    (17) 19 Total Votes - 18 up - 1 down
    • SanSimeonSam says:

      granny,
      the problem is that the corrections department employees, all 65,000 of them (40% make over 100K a year) are paid too much money for being rent a cops. The prisoners are pampered and attended to with better medical and dental benefits than the vast majority of Californians. Ship them to the private prisions in Kansas and Nebraska and yes even Arizona. An alternative is to privatize the prision system in California. This of course is after we ship all the illegals back to mexico and get real about the drug offenders and other non violent criminals in prision. The drugges need to be in programs not prisons.

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down

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