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Sheriff's office refutes report of imminent county jail overcrowding

November 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Overcrowding won't happen this year, even with a switch of state inmates to county jails, according to Sheriff Baca.

Los Angeles County jails now house 15,800 inmates, down from 16,000 the month before. An internal report from the L.A. County District Attorney's Office states the jails would be full as early as next month.

The sheriff's office says the report is based on old information. Overcrowding is not going to happen this year, even with a court-ordered switch of state prison inmates to county jails, a process known as realignment.

"This is a trickle-down effect," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore. "They will be coming to us and in the meantime things will be done to where we can manage the jail system."

Whitmore says about 500 inmates are released from jail every day.

Roughly 800 inmates come into the jail every five days. The sheriff has estimated he would not expect overcrowding for a long time.

"Right now we have 3,500 vacant beds. We believe that it will be probably a question that should be answered in about a year and a half or two years from now," said Baca in an interview last week.

It is a big question for many in law enforcement. They fear that court-ordered early release of convicted state inmates will cause an increase in crime.

Instead of going to state prison, some inmates will go straight to county jails after sentencing.

Since October 1, the county has received 1,000 inmates from the state. But the overall jail population has decreased to historic lows.

Baca has plans to release non-violent inmates who haven't been sentenced yet and equip them with electronic monitors.

The sheriff's department and the ACLU are studying the best ways to safely release inmates from jail, especially those awaiting trial.

The jails remain under a court order to relieve overcrowding.


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