The sheriff of San Bernardino County, Ca., yesterday asked the Board of Supervisors to expand the county’s jail system. The Los Angeles Times reports that Sheriff Gary Penrod said overcrowding had forced him to approve the early release of nearly 250 felons per month, including drug dealers, burglars, and other nonviolent criminals. “That’s where we are today: We are completely full,” Penrod said. “We are releasing felons on a regular basis.” Penrod said the jails routinely exceed capacity, forcing early releases, typically for those who have three to 10 days left in their sentences. He said deputies also release people booked on warrants with a bail of $150,000 or less and inmates eligible to be released on their own recognizance pending trial.
Penrod said jail conditions force him each month to release about 1,500 convicted criminals and suspects who would otherwise remain behind bars. “If we are not releasing 1,500 people per month, our jails would explode,” he said. So far, Penrod said none of the prisoners released early has been arrested for other crimes. He warned that the county’s inmate population–now about 5,300 –is expected to grow by 2,000 by 2010. The sheriff urged the board to buy two jail facilities that combined can house up to 1,500 inmates. One is operated by a city, the other by a private firm under contract with the state corrections department.