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LA County jails may reach capacity as state prisoners move in

October 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Nearly 27,000 new inmates are headed to Los Angeles County jails instead of state prisons in the coming weeks as part of a court-ordered reduction to the California prison population.

The first wave - about 600 - has already been transferred to Los Angeles County jails in an effort to reduce state prisoners by 30,000.

Sheriff Lee Baca told a neighborhood council meeting there won't be enough jail space to deal with all the non-violent offenders being sentenced in Los Angeles County.

"I can assure you that if we keep on with this rate that we're into now for the county of Los Angeles, with over 200... coming into jail every month, that there's no way we can sustain an incarceration amount that will fulfill the punitive elements of the system," Baca said.

That means the convicted criminals won't get punished the way they are supposed to be, by serving full state prison sentences. The state will whittle down its state prison population because the courts will sentence newly convicted non-violent offenders directly to county jails.

"Our hope is that by empowering the probation department, empowering the sheriff and the city police that we'll see a better enforcement and a better treatment effort than the state has provided in the past," said Matthew Cate, the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Cate said there is a misconception that there is an early prisoner release program.

"If you are a non-serious, non-violent offender and you don't have any strikes in your background, then you'll be sentenced to jail instead of prison," Cate said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said it believes it can handle the new inmates coming into county jails at least until the end of March 2012. After that, overcrowding could become a serious problem.


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