Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has reopened portions of one jail and is working with corrections officials to move convicted inmates more quickly to state prison, the Los Angeles Times reports. The moves could enable jailers to cut back on controversial early releases. Budget problems forced Baca to close some jails in 2002 and begin freeing inmates convicted on nonviolent offenses after they had served only small fractions of their sentences. About 200,000 inmates have been released early from county jails over the last three years, most after serving 10 percent of their sentences.
Sheriff’s Chief Marc Klugman said he now should be able to keep inmates for up to 30 percent their designated terms. Jail officials said extra beds have allowed them to stop forcing some inmates to sleep on the floor, a practice that was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and led to a federal class-action lawsuit. Baca’s department has 1,000 unfilled deputy positions and is in the midst of one of the largest recruitment efforts in recent years. Opening a closed jail wing added 500 beds, and sheriff’s officials hope to free up 800 more by getting the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to move faster to pick up inmates.