Crime & Justice

LA county officials credit Prop 47 with big drop in jail population

The Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, 10 September 2006.
The Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, 10 September 2006.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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Los Angeles County probation officials reported Thursday that Los Angeles County's jail population is at its lowest level since realignment sent it soaring in 2012 - and they expect it to keep dropping. They credit voter-approved Proposition 47, which lowered penalties for drug crimes.

In a status report to the county Board of Supervisors, officials said L.A. County's jails had fewer than 16,000 inmates at the end of 2014. Just two months earlier, there were more than 19,000 inmates.

L.A.'s jail population was last under 16,000 inmates in 2011. The numbers began to climb when the state launched its massive "realignment" effort. That policy called for sentencing non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders to county jail, rather than state prison, which led to overcrowding in the county's jails.

Proposition 47 passed in November and has effectively erased the crowding caused by realignment.

Officials said the drop has allowed them to keep more offenders incarcerated for larger portions of their sentence. They still don't have enough space to keep everyone for their entire sentence.

But officials expect the jail population to keep dropping.

About 2,500 jail inmates are likely eligible for re-sentencing and early release, according to the probation department. Inmates must apply for re-sentencing, and have it approved in court.