County may get 800 prisoners from state

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors registered its opposition Tuesday to a recent federal decision that could send up to 800 additional prisoners from overcrowded state facilities into San Diego County by the end of the year.

Following Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of AB 109, the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, some prisoners who were convicted of a non-violent crime or a non-sex offense were shifted from state to county facilities and probation departments.

A three-judge federal panel decided last month that the state must reduce its still overcrowded prison population by 10,000 prisoners by Dec. 31, with 400 to 800 of those headed to San Diego County, according to county documents.

Supervisor Ron Roberts called the initial shift “a generational failure of state government in California and among the biggest threats to public safety we’ve faced during my term on this board.”

Roberts said although the governor was appealing the most recent decision, early indications were not positive.

He said the some of the prisoners who could be released were not non- violent, non-sex offenders.

The local criminal justice system proved to be well-prepared for the initial shift, partially through beefed-up county probation staff and an under-construction expansion at the East Mesa Jail. However, the impending potential release has sparked the need for new programs and tools as local jails fill up, officials said.

“We have seen an increase in the jail space since AB 109, we have seen an increase in crime since AB 109, and so we have got to put our collective minds together to make sure we look at every possible avenue to make sure our communities are safe,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

She likened public safety realignment to “building the airplane while we are in the air.”

Staffers were directed work with law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to address the county’s expanding jail population, which swells each weekend by about 150 to 200 inmates, who are typically not processed until early in the following week.

“What this effectively does is require us to have far more capacity in our jail system,” Roberts said.

Public Defender Henry Coker said some spend three or four days in jail at taxpayers’ expense, then authorities decline to file charges against them.

“We’ve got to become very discriminating on how we use our jail space,” Coker said. “We don’t need to have people walking the streets who might potentially commit murder or serious crimes while we are holding onto people who are there because they shoplifted something worth 20 dollars.”

Staffers were given 90 days to come up with recommendations to mitigate weekend jail spikes, which could include video arraignments or weekend court.

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