In selectively releasing criminals to ease jail overcrowding, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has routinely forced women, some prostitutes, and certain gang members to serve more time than others convicted of identical crimes, says the Los Angeles Times. Prosecutors and legal experts fear the practice could prompt lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. Sheriff Lee Baca says he must direct jailers to free dozens of inmates every day under rules that governs which inmates get out early, many after serving under 10 percent of their sentences. Inmates arrested in certain crime-plagued regions are incarcerated 10 times longer than those arrested for the same crimes in other parts of the county.
Law Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA believes the department has the right to prioritize enforcement efforts and can legally hold some inmates longer than others for the same crimes. H questioned the past policy of holding women longer than men. Duke University’s Erwin Chemerinsky said, “Imagine if the Legislature said women who commit assault will serve 2 1/2 times more than the men who committed the same crime. No one would stand for that.” David Bennett, a Utah-based jail consultant who has advised counties on dealing with overcrowded facilities for more than 25 years, said the county needs to form a plan that makes sense. “L.A. County has to rethink its whole criminal justice plan because this doesn’t work,” Bennett said.