A tentative settlement has been reached in the California prison overcrowding case. The deal would avoid early releases by reducing the population over time through fewer returns for parole violations. Michael Rothfeld has this story in the LA Times.
Fewer parole returns is better than early releases, of course, but it runs the risk of pulling the few remaining teeth from parole requirements. Local confinement for parole violation is an alternative only if there is local space available. House arrest with electronic monitoring is a possibility, but only with tamper-proof monitoring and adequate staff and equipment.
The "costly human toll" of early releases are described in this long story from last week by LAT staff writers Jack Leonard, Megan Garvey and Doug Smith. The LA County Jail has been doing early releases for some time now. The results after the jump:
The large-scale releases started in mid-2002, when Sheriff Lee Baca had to make major budget cuts. Unwilling to lay off patrol officers, he chose to close jails.
As a result, nearly everyone now sentenced to 90 days or less is let go immediately. Many others leave after serving no more than 10% of their time, making Los Angeles County Jail sentences among the weakest in the nation.
A Los Angeles Times investigation of early releases since Baca's jail closures began found:
• Nearly 16,000 inmates — more than 10% of those released early — were rearrested and charged with new crimes while they were supposed to be incarcerated.
• Nearly 2,000 of those rearrested were released early a second time, only to be arrested again while they should have been behind bars. Hundreds of those people cycled through jail three or more times. One example of the revolving door: A 55-year-old woman was released early in 2002 on an assault charge, only to be rearrested three days later on suspicion of another assault. Over the next three years, she was released early 15 times and rearrested 19 times when she was supposed to be locked up.
• Sixteen men, including Moreno, were charged with murders committed while they should have been in jail. Nine are awaiting trial; seven have been convicted in the homicides.
• More than a fourth of those rearrested were charged with violent or life-endangering crimes, including 518 robberies, 215 sex offenses, 641 weapons violations, 635 drunk-driving incidents, 1,443 assaults and 20 kidnappings.
Many of these inmates probably would have committed new offenses even if they had served full sentences. But the early releases have given career criminals more time on the streets to commit additional crimes, endangering the public.