Crime & Justice

Serious offenders in LA County prisons now serving 100 percent of their sentences

An immate uses a mirror to look outside his cell at the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, 19 May 2004.
An immate uses a mirror to look outside his cell at the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, 19 May 2004.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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A huge drop in the Los Angeles County jail population has allowed officials to require the most serious offenders to serve 100 percent of their sentences - up from 40 percent - and other offenders are serving 90 percent, up from 10 percent.

Probation officials say the inmate population dipped down to just 15,000 inmates by the end of December - the lowest it's been in more than three years. They credit voter-approved Proposition 47, which downgraded penalties for some drug crimes and petty thefts. Under the new law, those offenses are no longer punishable with jail time.

Sheriff's department spokeswoman Jodi Sharp said because they are making offenders serve all or most of their sentences, population has creeped up a bit - to 16,000 inmates. Sharp said the Sheriff's department has seen far fewer inmate bookings in the months since Prop 47's passage.

There were more than 22,000 bookings in September and October. Prop 47 passed in November. In November and December there were less than 16,000 bookings, a 23 percent decrease.

In addition, Sharp said about 450 inmates serving time for drug and petty theft offenses requested to be re-sentenced under Prop 47 and were released from L.A. County jails.

"We are really happy to see the numbers of the jail population drop. It is actually dropping faster than we had even anticipated, "said Lynne Lyman, California's director for the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that advocated for the passage of Prop. 47.  "The L.A. county system is doing a great job at moving these re-sentencings through their process."

Throughout 2012, 2013 and most of 2014, the jails were plagued with overcrowding, leading officials to release inmates significantly early.