Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last week that would relocate some felons from state to county jails in an effort to alleviate overcrowded prisons.
Assembly Bill 109 permits the state to transfer jurisdiction of convicted lower level felons — those were not found guilty of serious or violent charges — to county law enforcement. The bill requires the state to reimburse local governments and organizations the restructuring costs of complying with the mandate.
According to Santa Barbara City Council Member Dale Francisco, the bill further burdens the county’s already congested jail system.
“I understand the rationale behind moving nonviolent criminals from state prisons to county prisons,” Francisco said. “But the problem is that county jails are already overcrowded as it is.”
Francisco said the increase in inmates will also limit the system’s ability to fund effective integration programs for convicts re-entering society after serving their sentence.
“We are not able to provide programs to try to keep prisoners from coming back after being released because we currently do not have enough room in the prisons,” Francisco said. “We are unable to help even the small amount of people who would benefit from these because of overcrowding.”
The bill also grants board of supervisors increased authority for offering alternative detention programs for low-risk inmates.
According to Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. Sgt. Brad McVay, similar early release programs already exist to reduce inmate overcrowding.
“No one in jail right now serves a full sentence; almost everyone is let out early,” McVay said. “Only 20 percent of inmates are sentenced and the rest are awaiting sentencing.”