NEW APPROACH FOR JAIL INMATES APPROVED
Today the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a new approach to managing criminal justice sentences that will help ensure that Placer County jail inmates complete their court-ordered sentences, and has the potential to reduce jail overcrowding.
Currently the Placer County Main Jail and the Minimum Security Facility have a capacity of 646 inmates. These facilities operate under a Federal Court Order not to exceed 100 percent of capacity. As a result, the order allows the Sheriff to begin releasing prisoners when either facility is within 10 percent of a capacity. County jail facilities have been within 10 percent of capacity every day for the past eight years. An average of 31 inmates per day must be released from custody, some through bail, some may be released by the court, the rest to comply with the federal order. This has required the jail staff to release inmates before they have completed their sentences.
Under today’s new board-approved program, staff from the Probation Department and the Corrections Division of the Sheriff’s Office can require certain already-sentenced inmates who are considered low risk to the community to spend their time in an alternative sentencing program versus being in jail. These individuals would be monitored regardless of where they are. However, they could also work at regular jobs, potentially live at home with their families, or participate in drug treatment or educational programs.
Voluntary alternative sentencing has been a successful option for lower-risk inmates for many years, but as the jail over-crowding problem has increased, inmate incentive to participate has declined because inmates expected to be released early instead. These inmates may be required to pay the costs of participation, and must also meet strict criteria.
The new mandatory alternative sentencing programs designate the Sheriff and the Chief Probation Officer as joint correctional administrators. It gives their departments much greater flexibility to decide who should serve their sentences by remaining incarcerated, and which inmates would be well-suited to serve their sentences in a home detention or work release program. To participate in the mandatory alternative sentencing program, an inmate would need
to be approved by the District Attorney’s office, the Sheriff’s office, Probation and the Superior Court.
Officials also believe that existing voluntary alternative sentencing programs will become more popular as the number of inmates released early declines.
Staff is also doing preliminary planning for Phase 1 of a new jail at the county’s Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. Early cost estimates are $77 million, with an estimated completion date of 2012. While this new detention facility remains much needed and would provide an estimated 350-400 beds, overall the mandatory alternative sentencing program could delay or decrease the need for additional county jail space beyond what is already being planned for in Phase 1.
The Placer County Criminal Justice Policy Committee and the Placer County Superior Court are committed to expanding mandatory alternative sentencing and are in support of this program.
“We believe that this change will enhance public safety as well as provide accountability for those convicted of crimes,” stated Sheriff Ed Bonner.
District Attorney Brad Fenocchio stated, “This resolution, in combination with the collaborative efforts of all the agencies involved, will provide much needed relief to our overburdened system.”
“This program will allow ensure accountability, allowing some sentenced inmates with relatively minor offenses to keep working in their jobs, and at the same time the county can better use its existing jail beds for more serious offenders,” said Stephen Pecor, Chief Probation Officer.
Start-up costs for the new mandatory alternative sentencing are expected to total about $708,000, primarily in one-time remodeling of the Day Reporting Center and purchasing GPS equipment for monitoring those not incarcerated. Other costs would expand PRIDE Industries’ contract to provide counseling services, and cover needed personnel. Effective in 2009-10, yearly costs are anticipated to be about $600,000. Staff are projecting at least half could come from new fee revenues.