Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials have defended their decision to release actress Nicole Richie from jail after she served 82 minutes of a four-day sentence for driving under the influence of drugs, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials went to great lengths to avoid the criticism they received after socialite Paris Hilton was released early for medical reasons, after serving five days of a 45-day sentence. She was returned to jail by a judge and served 23 days. “The sheriff wants everyone to do 100 percent of their time,” said one official. “Unfortunately, the facilities we have, and the capacity we have as mandated by the federal court, doesn’t allow us to do that.”
Under a federal court order to reduce chronic overcrowding, early release is common. Over the last five years, more than 200,000 inmates have been freed early because of overcrowding in L.A. County jails. The inmate capacity at the facility where Richie reported is 2,070. However, the population today is 2,159, with most of the inmates in holding cells or makeshift areas. Under the department’s early-release guidelines, most nonviolent female offenders sentenced to fewer than 90 days are released immediately. On Thursday, 143 people facing charges similar to Richie’s were freed early — 89 males and 54 females.