Los Angeles County has promised to relieve overcrowding in the county’s jails that has forced the early release of inmates and has led to several killings behind bars, the Los Angeles Times reports. About 200,000 inmates have been let out of Los Angeles County jails before their sentences were completed over the last three years, most serving 10 percent of their terms. Critics complained that the releases undermined the deterrent of jail; in some cases, inmates were released and committed other crimes when they should have been incarcerated.
Yesterday, the county said it can afford jail improvements thanks in part to an expected surge in property tax collections, which have soared along with home values. With the extra money, Sheriff Lee Baca plans to begin hiring new deputies in the fiscal year that starts in July. By the fall of 2006, he hopes to reopen all the jail areas that have been closed to save money over the last three years. The county plans to hire 500 new deputies and add 4,474 new beds to the jail system, increasing the capacity by 25 percent. The sheriff expects the extra deputies to improve security at the jails, where five inmates have allegedly been murdered in the last two years by fellow detainees.