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1500 Inmates Serving More Time in Jails Designed for Shorter Stays

Mar 6, 2013

The Fresno County Jail in downtown Fresno
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A survey by the state Sherriff’s Association shows over 1500 inmates in California are serving 5 years or more at local jails that are equipped for shorter stays. As KPCC’s state capitol reporter Julie Small reports, the survey looked at the effects of California’s realignment law.

A year and a half ago, California began sending thousands of low-level felons to county jails instead of prison. San Bernardino County absorbed 4,200 new felons according to Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “We have now so many more inmates that are staying here,” says Bachman.

A small percentage of them are in for 5-to-10 years. Bachman says the longer sentences mean fewer spots for people convicted of lesser crimes—or who are waiting to be sentenced.

“It certainly makes it more difficult to find adequate space to hold those inmates that we need to hold in custody,” says Bachman.

Realignment added more than 5,000 felony inmates to LA County jails. Sheriffs’ spokesman Steve Whitmore says the few hundred long-term inmates among them aren’t a problem—yet…

“Can we manage our jail system today?  Yes.  Will it become a challenge?  Logic would dictate, yes it will,” says Whitmore.

Whitmore says jails will continue to accumulate these long term inmates--and there’s a risk that state lawmakers could vote to divert more felons from state prisons to county facilities.

This story produced by KPCC