Jail population plummets, sheriff budget increases

January 28, 2015
Sheriff Ian Parkinson

Sheriff Ian Parkinson


Jail inmate numbers in San Luis Obispo County have dropped by more than 25 percent since last year following initial implementation of Prop. 47, but San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson’s spending continues to climb.

Proposition 47 reduces the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. People charged with misdemeanors are usually released after a few hours in custody in contrast to those charged with felonies who often spend months in jail awaiting trial.

Estimates by officials suggest savings to the state of $150 million to $250 million annually. And counties could enjoy “net criminal justice system savings that could reach several hundred million dollars annually,” according to the California Legislative Analyst and its Director of Finance.

Money saved by the state is mandated by Prop. 47 to be spent on school truancy and dropout prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment and victim services. Money saved at county levels is not earmarked.

In 2011, realignment lowered the number of inmate admissions at state prisons by approximately 40 percent, while increasing average daily county jail populations by about 30 percent. California’s prison realignment shifted the responsibility of custody, treatment, and supervision of individuals convicted of specified non-serious crimes from the state to counties.

Parkinson, since he was sworn in as sheriff in 2010, has fattened his budget from a years-long average of $56 million, according to county records, to the $64 million granted by supervisors in June. One of Parkinson’s primary assertions for the budget increase was a larger jail population.

His budget escalation has occurred despite the fact that supervisors have removed animal services from under the wing of the sheriff’s department, placing it under the health agency. The sheriff’s department was thus able to shed a program costing about $2.5 million annually, but there was little impact on sheriff’s department costs.

In 2012, sheriff’s department expenses increased to $58,152,370, a cost attributed to the state’s prison realignment. In 2013, the department spent $60,969,265, an amount increasing to $63,156,696 in 2014.

Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said that Prop. 47 could either increase or decrease inmate population numbers, that “some historical data” is needed.

“It is simply too soon to know the full effects of Prop. 47, and the Sheriff’s Office won’t know these effects until we have some historical data on which to base our decisions, budgetary and otherwise,” Cipolla said. “As an example, we were just beginning to realize some of the impacts we experienced from the implementation of [the realignment law] which was signed into law in 2011.”

In 2010, prior to realignment, there was an average of 477 inmates housed in the San Luis Obispo County Jail. By 2011, the average number of inmates had increased to 542, leveling off by 2014 to an average daily inmate population of 667, according to the California Board of State and Community Corrections.

During the third quarter of 2014, there was an average of 714 inmates housed in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, according to Cipolla. By the fourth quarter, the average daily population was 616, a decline that continues.

On Jan. 13, there were 513 inmates in county custody.

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  1. wanderingstar81 says:

    I personally know 3 people that have had to spend at least two weeks in jail this month due to receiving tickets for “illegal loging.” these people would love to be housed. they do not want to be forced to sleep outside.they are unable to earn enough income to have a roof over their heads. it is not and should not be illegal to be homeless. if we are talking about reducing jail costs and overcrowding maybe we need to take into consideration some of these people that have nowhere else to go that are being arrested and brought in for weeks at a time.

    (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
  2. Ron says:

    Interesting piece, Dan and Karen.

    Of course, now I have a question for Ian:

    If “jail inmate numbers in San Luis Obispo County have dropped by more than 25 percent since last year following initial implementation of Prop. 47,” is the new $50 million women’s jail, that’s currently under construction, and is being built solely to alleviate overcrowding of about 30 (on average) women inmates, and was pushed through the Board of Supervisors because the Sheriff’s office essentially lied (by omission) to the Board about MUCH less expensive alternatives (like SB 959 [mandatory home detention], low-cost mobile units, renovation of the existing facility, etc., etc.), and is going to cost SLO County taxpayers millions of additional dollars a year to operate, as I first started showing waaaay back in 2008 at this link:


    … on CalCoastNews.com, and then numerous follow-ups on SewerWatch, including at this link:


    … still needed?

    ’cause, I gotta admit, almost certainly — with the simple implementation of SB 959, the addition of low-cost mobile units [that the Sheriff’s Dept. added AFTER they tricked the SLO County Supervisors into spending millions upon millions of dollars on an unneeded new jail, yet never informed the Board about the mobile unit option while they were tricking the Board into funding the new jail) — it wasn’t even needed BEFORE Prop 47.

    Uh, Ian? Is the $50 million new women’s jail — that is being built solely to alleviate overcrowding of about 30 (on average) women inmates, and is going to cost millions of additional dollars a year of SLO County public money to operate — still needed post Prop 47?

    After reading Dan and Karen’s story, it sure doesn’t sound like it.

    (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
  3. Vagabond says:

    The real problem with the jail system is that for many it is no deterrent to further criminal activity. Imagine what would happen if jail sentences were all cut in half but served in tents on cots with bland food and hard labor every single day, preferably right out in the open where everybody can see them and ridicule them. Prison should be a punishment, not a “time out” it should be so bad that even the thought of going back is a major factor in future decisions.

    (5) 19 Total Votes - 12 up - 7 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      I have no experience with any jail system and hope to never have any; that said, do you honestly believe that being in prison or a county jail isn’t punishment enough? I do understand that many people feel there needs to be some sort of vengeful “God” like punishment meted out to those who break the law, especially those who are habitual, but it would seem like any time being incarcerated is going to be pretty brutal for those of us used to making our own decisions in life.

      (3) 17 Total Votes - 10 up - 7 down
      • kayaknut says:

        The brutal part is the cost to taxpayers for each person incarcerated, if being in jail was really being in “jail”, instead of what the taxpayers have been made to fund maybe I would agree jail would be punishment, but the way it is it often is just a gap between felonies.

        (8) 18 Total Votes - 13 up - 5 down
      • Vagabond says:

        Nope, not punishment enough.You are obviously not the kind of person I’m referring to. What I’m referring too is that POS that stabbed someone for no good reason, do you think going from “transient” (bum) to cellmate is that bad? Believe me, if jail was WORSE than being a bum you would have a lot less criminal activity like that.

        (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
      • racket says:


        To find the answer of whether “being in prison or county jail is enough” you need to look no further than the rate of recidivism amongst cons.

        If it was “enough,” they would choose not to re-offend and risk re-incarceration.

        Or maybe I misunderstand your question.

        (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
      • Rich in MB says:

        “I have no experience with any jail system and hope to never have any”

        Then why would you comment after telling us you have no experience?

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  4. retiredpoliceofficer says:

    The prison industrial complex is a multi-billion dollar business. It provides millions of jobs and is a large part of the economy. The people within this complex shutter at reductions in
    incarceration rates. They are against marijuana legalization laws because there are less
    prisoners to exploit.

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
  5. CentralcoastRN says:

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    I have heard there is money being spent on rehab programs and other structured programs out at the jail in order to help transition the long term inmates from prison life out to the “real world”. I mean, if you are in prison for repeatedly using hardcore drugs like heroin and dealing heroin, perhaps the inmate ought to be in a structured sobriety program learning some tools for healthy living while inside prison and not just sitting around, wouldn’t you say?

    As a society, we have GOT to have some money invested in prevention. We can either spend money teaching our citizens how to prevent illness, or we spend money BIG time on the other end of the equation.

    I spent close to 4 years on a stepdown unit. I watched heart surgeons have “come to Jesus” talks with patients, telling them they had clogged their arteries eating too much and moving too little. These doctors were BRUTAL; I literally listened as doctors would tell patients that IF they survived the surgery, which for some would be a longshot, they would no longer be able to live like sloths. (One doctor LOVED the word sloth). So, $400,000 and about 5 days later, the patient would be homeward bound to begin 6 weeks of cardiac rehab and a lifetime of lowfat and low sodium nonbliss.

    Implementing change costs money up front. This part of the jail costs are a GOOD thing. It is the part where inmates cry for help and are ignored that I have a HUGE issue with. I have yet to hear any sort of explanation that makes any sort of sense to me. I think Ian has a hard on to keep all that money for LAW ENFORCEMENT. The problem is law enforcement doesn’t do MEDICAL. But that is another subject for another day.

    (5) 17 Total Votes - 11 up - 6 down
  6. taxpayer says:

    Many thanks to Sheriff Parkinson for the job he’s been doing. He’s a good man and he’s doing a good job. It’s easy to criticize but much harder to do an extremely time consuming job effectively which this Sheriff is doing. Be thankful that we have extremely competent people such as Sheriff Ian Parkinson and Under Sheriff Tim Olivas, who truly care about the county that they are protecting. We are very lucky to have law enforcement professionals like these to protect and serve our community.

    (-2) 40 Total Votes - 19 up - 21 down
    • LameCommenter says:

      taxpayer says “..extremely competent…Parkinson…..Olivas…serve our community.”

      Where is my airsickness bag or office trash can.

      I won’t let your remarks stand unchallenged, “taxpayer”. I spend over ten grand a year in property taxes. I have contacted the disinterested heads of the sheriff over 20 times about repeat offenses and received no protective service. These top cops don’t even return phone calls.

      They are disinterested, glad-handing, pension building excuses for true law enforcement. Sure, they talk the talk and prosecute certain crimes, bought a lovely pleasurecraft patrol boat, but if a crime or ongoing situation doesn’t interest them, certain bold and open lawbreakers are IMMUNE to sheriff attention and response. Immune. Are you a cousin to Parkinson or something? Their SELECTIVE enforcement work STINKS. Ask my family.

      (7) 25 Total Votes - 16 up - 9 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Opinions vary……

      (-1) 13 Total Votes - 6 up - 7 down
      • LameCommenter says:

        I wasn’t giving my “opinion”, kai. I was giving a specific METRIC of unsolved, unattended, disregarded and derelicted reports of damaging crime against my family and others. A metric is not an opinion.

        (1) 17 Total Votes - 9 up - 8 down
        • agag1 says:

          Kayak’s response was to taxpayer, not you lamecommenter.

          (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
    • Rich in MB says:

      Oh…ha ha ha …..he’s doing a great Job of milking the Tax payers for his personal travel and vacations! Wake up…he’s a corrupt politician just like the rest.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  7. Slowerfaster says:

    Cops are killers and murderers that get by with it behind a badge.

    Check out Christiana Coignard …17 years old shot dead by police.

    Cops are homicidal maniacs that should be in prison.

    (-12) 26 Total Votes - 7 up - 19 down
    • agag1 says:

      Why so bitter slowerfaster?

      Cops are homicidal maniacs, killers and murderers that should be in prison? REALLY???

      ALL police should be in prison?

      I have NEVER had a negative encounter with a police officer,
      they have always been helpful, and respectful.

      Perhaps your attitude has something to do with your experience.

      (8) 18 Total Votes - 13 up - 5 down
    • r0y says:

      As usual, you probably found some lunatic left-wing blog (thinkprogress comes to mind) and didn’t even bother to dig any deeper on your own reference. Lazy, intellectually dishonest, and full of crap. In other words, typical for you.

      Longview Police Chief Don Dingler on Wednesday said that Kristiana Coignard charged at police officers with a butcher knife before she was shot and killed last week, according to the Longview News-Journal. Police also said she had “I have a gun” written on her hand.

      According to the surveillance footage, Coignard entered the station, called to ask for an officer, and waited for someone to arrive in the lobby of the police station. The incident occured at the edge of the surveillance camera field and does not include audio, making it hard to decipher exactly what took place.

      The responding officer, identified as Glenn Derr, arrived and spoke to Coignard. She backed away from him, and he then pinned her to a bench on the police station. After a few minutes, Derr helped Coignard up off of the bench, but quickly tackled her to the ground facedown. Derr then stepped away and appears to have his gun drawn.

      Two additional police officers, identified as Gene Duffie and Grace Bagley, arrived in the lobby of the station. Coignard then charged at Derr. Police claim that by this point, she had drawn a knife.

      Police said that Duffie deployed his Taser, but it did not subdue Coignard. According to police, Derr fired his gun three times, and Bagley fired her gun twice. Coignard then fell to the ground.

      Coignard’s aunt Heather Robertson, with whom the teenager was living at the time, told ThinkProgress that Coignard struggled with mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder.

      More can be found here (including surveillance video)

      (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
      • r0y says:

        Oh, and FYI, why didn’t you say, “Black cops shoot white teen” ? Isn’t that how we’re labeling any perceived (real or otherwise) police shootings? Or do we acknowledge there’s a narrative. An agenda.

        (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
    • AmericaBeautiful says:

      Grow up.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
      • AmericaBeautiful says:

        That comment was for wingnut “slowerfaster.”
        Obviously a mixed up kinda guy.

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

Comments are closed.