The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday postponed a vote on a plan to manage new parolees California releases from its prisons. A new state law requires local counties – instead of state parole agents - to supervise non-serious offenders.
With about 10 million residents, L.A.County will take the largest share of the prisoners who otherwise would have been the state's responsibility.
L.A. County Probation Chief Donald Blevins told the supervisors that they’re up against a deadline to assume responsibility for thousands of parolees.
“Essentially, Oct. 1, the offenders start arriving in our county," said Blevins. "And we need to be prepared to accept these individuals.”
Under a new state law, L.A. County will take over supervision of nearly 10,000 parolees in the next four years. In addition, people convicted of non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offender crimes in the future will go to county jails instead of state prisons as part of California’s plan to reduce its inmate population. None of the supervisors like the idea. Zev Yaroslavksy said the state’s provided money for only the first year after it had promised a permanent allocation.
“This was a bait and switch waiting to happen and we’ve been baited and now we’ve been switched on no question about it," he said. "We have no guarantee of funding even in year two.”
L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley has predicted a dramatic increase in the crime rate as the county has its own problems housing thousands of non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offender inmates – so-called "N3s."
“Of necessity there’ll have to be massive early releases of the N3s because of the lack of jail capacity," Cooley said. "I just don’t see the infrastructure there.”
Sheriff Lee Baca, who operates the jails, said it’s unclear whether he’ll have to release inmates. With about 4,500 beds to spare, the current jail system likely won't have enough to serve the 7,000 to 9,000 convicts that are expected come under his county's jurisdiction in the first year. Whether some are released will depend on whether the state provides more money in the future, Baca said. L.A. County has estimated the costs of assuming new prisoners will eventually surpass $300 million annually.
He also promised close supervision of parolees where they live and electronic monitoring beyond what the probation department provides.
“There is going to be plenty of mapping going on, plenty of angle bracelet going on and plenty of law enforcement going on," said Baca. "That’s not part of the plan but that’s part of my plan.”
The sheriff also pledged that every new prisoner would be given access to an educational plan, which could result in lower recidivism rates.
As several L.A. County supervisors expressed anger at state lawmakers for what they called inmate dumping, Supervisor Gloria urged her colleagues to move on.
“I know there’s a lot of bellyaching about what Sacramento has done, but all the bellyaching is not going to change the situation," she said. "These folks are coming. We need to brace ourselves for it."
Despite her plea, the board postponed its vote on a parolee management plan, asking instead that law enforcement officials make minor changes and return with a final draft next week.
The AP's Thomas Watkins contributed to this report.