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Riverside County: Highest Number Of Early Release Inmates In The State, Official Says

There are five detention facilities in the county able to hold just under 4,000 inmates -- less than in any neighboring county -- and local officials are clamoring for programs to address the problem of inmate overflow as a result of AB 109.

Southwest Riverside County Detention Center   Patch file photo/Maggie Avants
Southwest Riverside County Detention Center Patch file photo/Maggie Avants

Riverside County supervisors are slated tomorrow to back a Los Angeles County resolution calling on the Legislature and governor to make more public safety funding available to counties burdened with incarcerating and caring for inmates who until two years ago would have been the state's responsibility.

Riverside County Executive Officer Jay Orr will ask the Board of Supervisors to officially endorse an L.A. County board motion advocating larger allocations from the Assembly Bill 109 program.

AB 109, also known as the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, was enacted as part of a broader strategy to reduce the state's inmate population in the face of a federal court decree mandating that the number of inmates in California prisons be slashed by 33,000 for health and safety reasons.

Under AB 109, so-called "non-serious, non-violent" offenders convicted of felonies that do not stem from a sexual offense are to serve their sentences in local detention facilities. Proponents of realignment suggested that jail sentences would be capped at three years, but that has not held true; one inmate in Riverside County is serving a 12-year sentence, while another in Los Angeles County is serving 43 years at a local detention facility.

AB 109 also made counties responsible for prosecuting and incarcerating probation and parole violators whose offenses do not fall into the "serious or violent" category. According to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, nearly one-fifth of all jail detainees last year were AB 109 cases.

A 20-year-old federal court order mandates that the county have a jail bed for every detainee or selectively release inmates to make room for incoming ones. According to the CEO's office, in 2013, the sheriff released 9,286 inmates because of space limitations. That compares to what Sheriff Stan Sniff described as an unprecedented number in 2012 -- 6,990.

"Although Riverside County has the greatest number of early releases in the state, no county has sufficient state funding to fully implement all of the programs necessary to reduce recidivism and move offenders toward self- sufficiency," Orr wrote.

The county currently spends 20 percent of general fund dollars on corrections. That number is projected to more than double in a decade if the county appropriates the revenue required for jail infrastructure.

There are five detention facilities in the county able to hold just under 4,000 inmates -- less than in any neighboring county.

Orr noted that AB 109 problems are not centered entirely on space shortages. The county's resources are also being drained providing mental health services, substance abuse treatment, temporary housing, clothing, transportation and other assistance to "realigned offenders," according to the Executive Office.

The Department of Probation's "realignment caseload" stands at 2,868, according to Orr.

"More than half of those probationers are at high-risk for re-offending," he said.

Both Orr and L.A. County CEO William Fujioka stressed the need for increased state funding to support rehab programs, family counseling, job training, electronic monitoring in lieu of jail and similar initiatives aimed at keeping people out of detention facilities.

In a letter to Orr, Fujioka said that several counties now find themselves targets of the same type of healthcare-related litigation that spurred the state to shift public safety responsibilities to localities.

"It is clear that in order to avoid the costly litigation that has plagued the state for many years, counties must address the operational, physical and clinical infrastructure issues presented by AB 109," Fujioka said.

He characterized current AB 109 funding levels as "woefully inadequate."

According to a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation report, in the current fiscal year ending June 30, about $1 billion will have to be shared among the state's 58 counties. --City News Service

Click here to read what 67th State Assembly District Melissa Melendez has to say about realignment. On Jan. 10, she said one of her top priorities this year is to get the funding allotment increased for Riverside County. Melendez represents the cities of Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Canyon Lake, Menifee, Murrieta and other local jurisdictions.

Amanda Vickers January 15, 2014 at 01:18 AM
This article makes it clear that realignment is NOT working. Yet, Riverside County's Chief Law Enforcement Officer (District Attorney Paul Zellerbach) has been quoted as supporting AB109. He has even gone so far as to say he wishes it was around when he was a judge. Why would the District Attorney, who is supposed to ensure the safety of the citizens of Riverside County support a poor policy such as this one?
ChrisG January 15, 2014 at 10:19 AM
I do not understand why more prisons were not constructed. Why they do not pitch tents like they do in Maricopa county. This was a long time coming but way better solutions were available than AB109. Crime is on the rise. Great!
Jeff Kleiner January 15, 2014 at 10:27 AM
Most, if not all of the released were for drug possession which does not affect your security.
ChrisG January 15, 2014 at 10:50 AM
@jeff, drugs fuel almost all crime. A lot of the people released are violent criminals. Crime is increasing as a direct result of AB109. Why do you support this?
Jeff Kleiner January 15, 2014 at 11:17 AM
I don't support this, just trying to set the record straight......NO VIOLENT CRIMINALS HAVE BEEN RELEASED. If you have some proof show it.

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