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Supervisors look at alternatives to relieve jail overcrowding

Posted: September 17, 2013 6:46 p.m.
Updated: September 17, 2013 6:46 p.m.

Many of those who are jailed for offenses such as kidnapping, manslaughter and child molestation in Los Angeles County are let free long before their sentences end as a result of overcrowding in local jails — a fact that has led county supervisors to examine alternative ways to house inmates.

“I just don’t want them to be moved out of our jail because we don’t have room,” said Supervisor Gloria Molina during the Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday.

These inmates, dubbed M-7 offenders, serve about 40 percent of their sentenced time before being released, according to a report from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The M-7 designation includes inmates who were convicted of serious or violent crimes.

Oftentimes these offenders are released due to a lack of capacity in the county jail system — a system that has been pushed to capacity and beyond by the state prison realignment program that takes inmates who would typically go to state prison and places them in county jails.

“As a result of the increase of this population and insufficient funding from the state to house this population, the (Sheriff’s) Department has been required to release county sentenced felons prior to the completion of their sentence,” reads a report from the Sheriff’s Department.

As of Sept. 1, more than 6,100 inmates were serving sentences in county jail as a result of realignment.

But longer-term holding of these M-7 inmates, which make up roughly 7 percent of the county jail population, would require a greater number of jail beds and a significant amount of money.

County estimates indicate that requiring M-7 inmates to serve 100 percent of the time they are sentenced would require approximately 700 new beds in the county jail system.

To increase capacity, county supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a contract to train inmates to work in fire camps with the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, which would open up housing for around 500 inmates at an estimated annual cost of about $8.4 million.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said he was supportive of having inmates work in fire camps.

“Those lasting values, responsibility and discipline they learn would enable them to become a constructive citizen instead of a destructive one,” he said Tuesday.

Supervisors also agreed to move forward with leasing jail space from the city of Taft in Kern County, which has offered up to 512 beds. That option would cost an estimated $11.3 million a year.

That lease will be discussed at a later board meeting, perhaps as soon as next week, after Antonovich introduced a motion to move forward.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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