The legal crisis precipitated by Paris Hilton’s incarceration is partly the California prison system’s fault, says the Sacramento Bee. As of May 30, Los Angeles County was housing between 1,200 and 1,400 state prison inmates in its overcrowded facilities in which the 26-year-old Hilton is now residing. Tens of thousands of inmates are getting early releases from the Los Angeles jails that are accommodating those state-sentenced inmates, whom the California prison system otherwise can’t house. “It definitely is a symbol of the problem at the state and local level,” said Steven Szalay of the California State Sheriffs’ Association. Referring to Hilton, Szalay said, “Here’s a misdemeanor, a serious misdemeanor, but as a matter of fact, very little time is spent incarcerated.”
In 2005, about 230,000 county jail inmates were released in California before the end of their terms because of overcrowding at the local levels. Thirty-two California counties are operating under court-imposed inmate population caps. Los Angeles, with a county jail capacity of 20,000 beds, had been housing as many as 3,000 state inmates a year ago. Jail riots and bad publicity over early releases prompted the county to terminate the contract last year and use the space for its own inmates. California has agreements with 17 cities and counties, including Los Angeles, to house state-sentenced inmates.