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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Of course the cost increases, it’s all about the pensions. A senior officer retires gets his 65K or so, another senior officer takes his place and retires 6 years later and then another one takes his place. Before you know it that one position is now costing the tax payers a quarter of a million dollars a year.

Don’t worry, when the inmates stop dying while in custody the prison population will shoot back up again.

Maybe Sheriff Parkinson is saving up some of those “extra” monies to spend on better training his jail staff in recognizing medical issues with inmates and making sure they get the emergency treatment they might need, to help keep them alive until trial?

Any correlation between these dropping numbers and the increase in local crime?

Is there an increase in local crime? (I mean an increase over a period long enough to not be a statistical outlier.)

Reading news stories that focus on sensational crimes gives people a warped perspective on reality. Nationally, violent crimes have been decreasing for decades but you wouldn’t know it from the news. Even the school shootings and other mass killings are down if you don’t focus on the last couple of years only. The FBI keeps and posts statistics on all of this.

Ian is going to buy a off shore race boat to chase the panga’s.

What really chaps my hide. Why cant the sheriff be his own public spokesman. This is such joke.

So Ian, where is the money that was budgeted going?

His navy


Works great for protecting fragile populations (like trout). Didn’t realize the population of low-level druggies and thieves warranted protection.

In the United States there are now more prisons than universities….

Is that because there are more criminals than college grads? Which comes first. What’s your point?

It’s a business …called the ‘prison-industrial complex’.

Crime DOES pay, while education does not.

You’ll catch hell if you bring up the obvious… Crime does pay! It pays the bloated salaries of those belonging to the likes of the CCPOA and it perpetuates the CPIA (California Prison Industries Authority) which pays inmates very little while making huge profits.

If more prisoners had only chosen school over crime…

If the schools can’t teach a kid to be a Doctor or a Scientist then teach the kid to cut a piece of wood or fix a car or build a radio. Bring back ROTC for heavens sake! Not everyone will go on to college. We need people that can fix stuff. I’m convinced that many students just give up trying to keep up and take the easy way out. If you suck at Biology or History you should be able to choose a different course. We can build all the darn schools we want but if they don’t work what good will it do. The curriculum needs a thorough going over. Maybe less indoctrination and more information is needed in our public schools. Maybe we should drop women and African American studies and add tile setting or heavy equipment operation. If you are finished with High school and you can’t take care of yourself…well…you will likely end up on the streets or in prison.

This should have been happening 20 years ago. However, fewer and fewer jobs are now available for people without at least a reasonable familiarity with computer/electronic technology and other skills that need at least a high school level of education. Community colleges emphasizing tech skills are probably what is needed for the next generation of “non-professionals” to succeed.

I don’t know what it will take to get those who are not motivated or interested to get with such a program but that has long been a problem with our school system. It is just that the level of education needed is getting higher now.

These vocational schools need to be linked up with our juvenile correctional system as well as our high schools.