In California the early release of inmates has become the means by which the state is complying with a U.S. Supreme Court order to lower its prison population. As the state empties its prisons county jails struggle to accommodate state prisoners flowing into their facilities.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision requires California to lower its prison population by 30,000. To meet the mandate, those convicted of certain crimes who until now served their sentences in state prison now must serve their time in a county jail. No inmates are being moved from state prisons to county jails. But as these people are sentenced, they will be sent to a county jail rather than state prison, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The L.A. County Sheriff is hoping to deal with the influx of state prisoners by developing alternatives to custody — such as electronic monitoring — for low-risk offenders awaiting trial. The Sheriff’s Department oversees the county jail. According to the Times, L.A. County's jails are expected to house as many as 8,000 state prisoners by mid-2012. Los Angeles County prosecutors said in a report that the numbers could fill up the jails as early as this month.
Some counties, including Los Angeles, are under court order to prevent jail overcrowding. So officials said that some inmates will be released to make way for the state prisoners. Some counties — including Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino — have also reported receiving significantly more state prisoners from courts than the state projected, reported the Times.
State officials and some sheriffs believe the higher-than-projected number of state prisoners being sent to jails has occurred in part because defense attorneys waited until realignment took effect to settle their clients' cases. By doing that, the attorneys were assured that their clients would get jail time instead of prison time.