Plan would move prison inmates to county jails

May 14, 2010 7:59:15 PM PDT
The governor's budget plan would dump thousands of state prisoners into county jails as a cost-saving measure. Local law enforcement agencies are very much against it.

For Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is a win-win situation. It saves the state about $243 million and since California is under a federal court order to cut the prison population, it reduces the number of inmates by 15,000.

But there is plenty of opposition.

"I'm begging the governor to please reconsider," victims' rights advocate Frances Luster said.

Luster is with the victims' rights group Crime Victims United. Her son was murdered two decades ago. His killer was a convicted robber on probation even though he had a violent record as a juvenile.

Luster is adamantly against the governor's plan.

"What concerns me is these folks who may accidentally be released who committed serious offenses, they may get out and hurt other citizens," she said.

In January, Schwarzenegger floated the same plan to move 15,000 non-violent felons from state prisons to county jails for up to three years.

The difference now is that counties will get nearly $12,000 for each inmate.

San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks does not mince his words.

"We already have an extremely overcrowded jail here in San Mateo County; any additional inmates from the state puts us in a crisis mode," he said.

The San Mateo County Jail is about 140 percent of capacity. Munks says the plan would exacerbate the already overcrowded facility.

"If we got an influx from the state, presumably they'd be a higher level of risk than we have in our county now, so at some point we have to start releasing inmates," he said.

Thirty-two county jails in the state are under a court-ordered population cap, including Sonoma, Solano and Napa in the Bay Area.

The plan may put those counties in legal jeopardy.

What's more, Munks says the $12,000 per inmate subsidy is grossly inadequate.

"The amount of the money they're providing is roughly one-third of what it actually costs us to house these folks," he said.

Because of the overcrowding of Bay Area jails, inmates are already being released without serving their full sentences. About 200,000 county jail prisoners were released early last year.


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