Overcrowded Jails: Riverside County in "Deep Trouble"
Riverside county's top public safety officials are trying to figure out how to handle all their new convicts. KMIR6's Angela Monroe has more on how the responsibility for housing inmates is being pushed from the state to the local level.Photo: Video by kmir6.com
Riverside County's top public safety officials are trying to figure out how to handle all their new convicts.
Riverside County jails are already at 95 percent capacity.
The sheriff says before the end of the year they will be entirely full.
Then the jails will have to release inmates early.
Sheriff Stan Sniff says Riverside County is in deep trouble.
"We got caught in a very bad circumstance by having our jails fall too far behind, and then the economy tanked, hard hit Riverside county, those makings of a perfect storm have all come together to put us in the position we're at," said Sheriff Sniff.
Riverside County is getting about 200 extra prisoners a month: turning short term jails into long-term stays.
"Those people are staying in for long periods of time, and no longer at state expense, but local expense here," said Sniff.
AB 109, the realignment bill, pushed more jobs into the sheriff's, probation, and district attorney's hands.
"The state has pushed back onto the counties much more responsibilities with respect to supervising state prisoners, and housing them locally without the proper appropriate funding," said District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.
But the state Department of Corrections says a funding source is in place.
"Without a Constitutional amendment the leglislature could change that funding source, and so the governor is committed to that constitutional amendment and he has said he will veto any budget that comes forward that does not having funding for realignment in it," said Terri McDonald with the CDCR.
The money the state provided to offset costs runs out at the end of June.
"What do we do from July 1st to November, when it's on the ballot? There's no funding in place for that 5 or 6 month period of time," said Zellerbach.
Meanwhile, the sheriff's department will use ankle bracelets and other methods to watch convicts they can't house.
"So we are going to do everything we can to be clever and resourceful in having people out of custody but still in control, but the reality is we're going to be putting people back out in the street that have no business going there," said Sheriff Sniff.
Residents are worried.
"Not only in terms of what we have to do to take care of these prisoners, house them, etcetera, but also in terms of whose going to fund it and where the funding is going to come from and what other services potentially are going to be affected by it," said Susan Carter of Palm Springs.
"All of this should have been well thought out before anybody jumped in and started releasing anybody because now there's this major issue, what are you going to do with them, turn them out on the streets, that's just what we need is more criminals on the street," said Christina Michas of Palm Desert.
Because of AB 109, courts are sending more low-risk prisoners to jails instead of prison.