New Law Pumps Up L.A. County Jail Population

Realignment attempts to crack down on overcrowding in state prisons by referring specified inmates to county authorities.

Los Angeles County jails have grown by 1,000 inmates since the Public Safety Realignment program went into effect Oct. 1, according to sheriff’s department officials.

The new law attempts to crack down on overcrowding in state prisons by referring specified inmates to county authorities. Local jurisdictions are now responsible to house and monitor non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders.

Prisoners referred from state to county jails will not be eligible for early release, said Steve Whitmore with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

In order to make room for those state-sentenced inmates, county jails would have to release their inmates early, L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley wrote in a letter to County Mayor Michael Antonovich.

“Realignment will result in early release on steroids,” Cooley added.

Antonovich’s office was closed for the Veteran’s Day holiday and unavailable for comment.

Despite additional bed space, Cooley wrote, L.A. County jails are expected to reach capacity by mid-December, citing a sheriff’s department representative’s comments to the Community Corrections Partnership (CCP).

Los Angeles Times reported on an internal report from the L.A. County district attorney’s office that estimated county jails would be full by the end of November, but Whitmore disagreed.

“There is room at the inn, and there’s more room as we go,” he said.

Los Angeles County jails take in about 800 inmates per weekday, Whitmore said. And about 500 to 800 inmates leave the jails every day.

Alternatives to formal incarceration are being considered to reduce inmate population, including in-prison degree programs, and electronic and home monitoring.

“Only 18,000 go to the state prison system based upon their felony conviction and I can assure you, they’ve earned it,” Cooley testified.

The new law revises “felony” to include certain crimes that are punishable in jail for more than one year, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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