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County officials seek new jail option

County wants to go route of state and send excess inmates to private jails

Posted: January 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Los Angeles County officials want the same ability the state has to send excess prisoners to private jails.

That option is currently open only to the state, according to county Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka.

“Under existing law, the state has time-limited authority to contract with private correctional facilities,” reads a report from Fujioka. “For several years, the state has contracted with private out-of-state facilities to house prison inmates as a result of the emergency order related to overcrowding in the state prison system.”

But that same power is not afforded to counties, according to Fujioka, even though counties do have the ability to contract with publicly owned and operated facilities to house some inmates.

The overcrowding issue has become an increasingly urgent one since state prison realignment went into effect in October 2011.

That law shifted from the state to the county responsibility for some criminals whose offenses were deemed non-serious, non-sexual and non-violent in nature.

The straining of jail capacity has led to some offenders being released after serving only a portion of their sentences.
“To not hold convicted criminals accountable for their crimes makes a mockery of the criminal justice system,” said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The issue of capacity constraints and the desire to increase time served for offenders were some of the reasons county supervisors voted last year to approve a $75 million deal to send about 500 inmates serving lengthy jail sentences to the city of Taft in Kern County.

But the board later voted to halt that plan after it was found the Taft facility was involved in ongoing litigation with the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Antonovich voted against scrapping the deal along with Supervisor Don Knabe.

County supervisors voted Tuesday to direct Fujioka to explore possible legislative avenues to authorize counties to contract with private entities and report back to the board at a later date.

“The least the state could do is provide the counties the same contracting options they have available to them,” Antonovich said.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
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