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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our Voice: County jails are not built for long-term incarceration

My DesertPublic safety realignment was necessary to ease overcrowding in California prisons. And in the long run, it may be that county probation departments will do a better job of helping low-level criminals become productive citizens.

But in the short term, shifting thousands of inmates has had a harsh impact on jails in many of the state’s 58 counties and could have a serious impact on public safety.

When the Legislature approved public safety realignment in October 2011, it was estimated that inmates serving time in county jail instead of state prison would face sentences of two to three years.

In many cases, however, sentences are longer. The California State Sheriff’s Association reports that more than 1,100 inmates in county jails have 5- to 10-year terms. Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff Jr. says one inmate here is serving 14 years.

County jails are designed to house criminals for one year.

Shifting criminals to county jails is creating the same legal problems that led to public safety realignment, when a panel of federal judges ruled that overcrowding in California prisons resulted in medical services so poor that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. continue reading...

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