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Monday, September 9, 2013

Long-term inmates — and prison culture — move into county jails

LA TimesGov. Jerry Brown's plan approved two years ago to ease crowding in state prisons has left county jails struggling with hard-core felons sentenced to spend years, even decades, in facilities meant to hold criminals for no more than a year.

County sheriffs warn that these long-term inmates are more than they can handle. They say they pose security threats in their already-crowded lockups and invite the same costly class-action lawsuits over medical care and services that now dog state prisons.

"Our facilities were never constructed to manage an inmate for longer than a year," said Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, president of the state sheriffs association, describing jails statewide.

Before the passage of AB 109 — the 2011 law pushed by the governor to reduce California's prison population — jail sentences in California were limited to one year. Now, California has had more than 1,300 inmates sentenced to five years or more in jails, according to a sheriffs association survey and reports by individual jails.

The situation is most prevalent in Los Angeles County, where jails hold more than 530 inmates who have been sentenced to jail terms of five years or more, 43 of them for more than a decade.

The most extreme of those: a top-level trafficker for a Mexican drug cartel, caught with a shipment of 211 kilos of cocaine. He has been ordered to spend 42 years in the jail. continue reading...

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