California To Outsource Inmates?
Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times - August 8, 2011
Mule Creek - Bunks are placed in open areas at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Calif. The state is under court order to reduce the prison population by 34,000 in two years. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles County officials are exploring an unconventional solution for handling the prisoners the state is passing off to them: passing them off to someone else.
By year's end, hundreds of criminals who would have done their time in state prisons are expected to go instead to county lockups as part of the governor's plan to thin the population in California's chronically overcrowded prisons.
Taking some of those inmates and shipping them out again is being considered as a last resort, county officials said. But it's being taken seriously enough that county staff have been seeking outside advice on the idea, and a team of sheriff's officials recently took a trip to the San Joaquin Valley to scope out a potential lockup.
L.A. County jails have faced hitting capacity before, resorting to early release and other solutions for shedding prisoners; but never before have inmates been housed out of county.
Asked whether he could think of any other county that has done so, state Sheriffs' Assn. President Mark Pazin said, "No, never and I've been doing this for 30-plus years. We just don't do that."
One of the much-touted arguments for Sacramento's plan to divert state inmates to local jails is keeping criminal offenders closer to home and their family and friends gives them a better shot at rehabilitation.
But Lt. Wayne Bilowit, a Sheriff's Department lobbyist, rejected the notion that keeping inmates close to home was a primary rationale for the governor's "realignment" plan.
"In theory, yes, that's one good thing, they're closer to home," he said. "But this is all about [the state] easing off their prison population crisis."
Many of the inmates expected to be housed by the county face sentences of 90 days or less. Nonetheless, if housed in state prisons, they would be required to go through lengthy — and costly — health and gang-affiliation screenings. The state, which is expected to provide funding to the counties for these new inmates, still expects a net savings from realignment by cutting out the intake screenings.
Bilowit said the message from Sacramento has been to "put them wherever you need to put them. Just don't send them back to us."
"If you characterize it as 'no,' 'possible' or 'probable,' it's 'possible,' " said Lt. Mark McCorkle of the sheriff's custody support services unit.
Any contracts to ship off L.A. prisoners would be issued by the Board of Supervisors. Anna Pembedjian, the justice deputy for Supervisor Michael Antonovich, said her office would be inclined to outsource inmates rather than release them early. "In lieu of releasing convicted felons back in the community, we would consider it," she said.
Full Story here:
Californians would rather ease penalties than pay more for Prisons - By Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times - July 21, 2011Poll shows a change in attitudes as California seeks ways to comply with court-ordered cuts to its prison population. Soured economy is a key factor.
MULE CREEK - Overcrowded conditions at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Calif. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / EPA / May 22, 2011)
Cash-strapped Californians would rather ease "third-strike" penalties for some criminals and accept felons as neighbors than dig deeper into their pockets to relieve prison overcrowding, a new poll shows.
In the wake of a court order that the state move more than 33,000 inmates out of its packed prisons, an overwhelming number of voters oppose higher taxes — as well as cuts in key state services — to pay for more lockup space.
The survey, by The Times and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, shows a clear shift in attitude by residents forced to confront the cost of tough sentencing laws passed in recent decades.
The ailing economy far outweighs crime as the top concern for most people today, the pollsters said. That, along with the court order, could help explain voters' new receptivity to changes long sought by prisoner-rights advocates:
— More than 60% of respondents, including majorities among Democrats, Republicans and those who declined to state a party preference, said they would support reducing life sentences for third strike offenders convicted of property crimes such as burglary, auto theft and shoplifting.
— Nearly 70% said they would sanction the early release of some low-level offenders whose crimes did not involve violence.
— About 80% said they approve of keeping low-level, nonviolent offenders in county custody — including jails, home detention or parole — instead of sending them to state prisons. The same percentage favors paroling inmates who are paralyzed, in comas or so debilitated by advanced disease that they no longer pose a threat to public safety.
The pollsters noted that people don't generally favor the release of convicted criminals. But "when it comes to prisons," said Linda DiVall of American Viewpoint, "voters are looking for solutions that don't raise taxes or take money from other priorities like education."
Full Story Here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-poll-prisons-20110721,0,531177.story