Sun, Jul 17 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampite
By Oct. 1, Superior Court judges will begin sending low-level felony offenders to county jails, instead of state prisons.
In May, a 5-4 Supreme Court Justice decision gave California two years to reduce its overcrowded
prisons or set 33,000 offenders free.
At a Northwest Civic Association meeting Wednesday night, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano told Chula Vista residents they would not be directly affected by the release of prisoners countywide.
“We don’t believe it will have an impact on us,” he said. “But it will have an impact with the probation
and sheriff’s department.”
It’s an effort between San Diego County Sheriffs and the California Chiefs Association, some 2,000 nonserious, nonviolent offenders sentenced after the first of October will serve their sentences in county jail instead of prison.
The county will establish a new post release supervision unit, hiring 50 parole agents units to accommodate the caseload.
Bejarano said if done correctly, the change would be a cost-saving measure and reduce the recidivism
“All of us believe it’s a good concept,” he said. “It could reduce the amount of people who re-offend.”
The Chula Vista Police Department is the only city in the county to operate its own Type II Jail facility. There are currently 39 people housed in Chula Vista’s jail, which houses a total of 48 beds with 13 cells.
State inmates enrolled in the “In Custody Drug Treatment Program” are also housed there.
This program gives parolees an understanding of substance abuse and recovery by using a wide curriculum including The Cycle of Addiction, The Process of Recovery, Stress and Anger Management and Successful
Bejarano said if the concept works it will benefit law enforcement.
“Our concern at a local level was to make sure there is sufficient funding and people in place,” he said.
Currently, California has a 70 percent recidivism rate. At the local level, it costs $30,000 to house one prisoner annually.
Those sentenced to do local time after Oct. 1 will have a fouryear sentence on average and with credit for good time served could be eligible for release in two years.
“The key is trying to make the transition into the community much smoother so there are less repeat offenders,” Bejarano said.
The plan would also provide alternative forms of incarceration such as house arrest with GPS monitoring or halfway houses or work camps. Bejarano said the idea is to get rid of the revolving door and create more strict, probation supervision.
Any additional savings will be used to provide more treatment for those incarcerated. “Many of
them have some kind of addiction, whether it’s drug or alcohol or have a mental illness,” Bejarano
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2004, on average, discharged nonviolent offenders
received a sentence of around 52 months but served just a third of their sentence, prior to being discharged.
San Diego County is expected to receive approximately $32 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year to incarcerate, supervise and provide treatment services to inmates and others previously handled by the state. It will receive about $64 million for the next fiscal year.
The majority of the funds the county receives will go to the Sheriff’s and Probation departments,
within seven detention facilities.
County Health and Human Services would also receive funding to provide medical care and drug
and alcohol treatment services to people who can’t afford it.
Sheriff Bill Gore estimated that jails could reach capacity in 2013, however, the department is scheduled
to take back 1,000 beds from a private prison on county land in Otay Mesa sometime in 2014.
The overcrowded prison conditions violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems, producing
"needless suffering and death."
The decision was made as an effort to save money and will reserve prison beds for the most dangerous criminals while keeping lower-level offenders from committing more crimes.
California currently houses 143,000 inmates in 33 prisons designed for 80,000.
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