California prison officials, facing severe overcrowding and a financial crisis, have been granting earlier than usual releases to inmates serving time for parole violations, reports the Los Angeles Times. Officials said dozens of prisoners set free from the California Institution for Men in Chino and from lockups in San Diego and Shasta counties had 60 days or fewer left on their terms, or had been accused of violations and were awaiting hearings. The releases were approved by the state parole board.
At least 89 inmates have been freed or approved for early release during the last two months. Others have been sent to home detention, drug rehabilitation programs, or similar alternative punishments. They were screened to ensure that they had never been convicted of the most serious crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, or sexual offenses. Their parole may have been revoked for missing an appointment with a parole agent, failing a drug test, committing robbery or any number of other offenses. The move came as county authorities in Los Angeles and elsewhere said they could no longer house — and in some cases, threatened to release — inmates awaiting transfer to state prisons from their own teeming jails.