LA County supervisors worry about prison release plan

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors raised concerns Tuesday about the planned release of thousands of state prison inmates. The state plans to release about 9,000 inmates to L.A. County during the next year starting in October. Over three years, the number will climb to nearly 30,000 as California complies with a federal court order to reduce its prison population.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich called the prospect “frightening,” and warned that L.A. would be unable to provide the mental health and drug abuse programs many prison inmates need.

"We don’t have the health facilities or the space to absorb that population," Antonavich said at a hearing to consider the county's plan for supervising the former inmates. “I mean we have a tsunami coming."

L.A. County Probation Chief Donald Blevins, whose department will supervise the ex-inmates, said he plans to use $112 million in state funding to hire more officers. But he said supervisors were correct to worry whether the county could provide good rehabilitation programs.

"I think my bigger concern is the pool of money for the treatment providers – particularly mental health and substance abuse – is that enough?" Blevins said. "My gut feeling is that I don’t think it’s enough to do the job adequately.”

Blevins said he is working with community-based organizations to help provide programs.

Under the state's release plan, non-violent, non-sex offender and non-serious prison inmates would be released to the counties where they were convicted. The state would give them $200 to travel home, and they would be required to report to local probation departments.

Blevins said they would typically remain under county supervision for one year, and face up to 180 days in jail if they violate the terms of their release. Currently, former inmates face three years of parole supervision and are returned to prison if they violate the terms of their parole.

L.A. County supervisors vote next week on a plan to manage the released inmates.