Los Angeles County law enforcement officials will make sweeping changes to the sheriff’s early release policy, says the Los Angeles Times. The new rules would keep most inmates in jail longer, but some categories of criminals – including child molesters, spousal abusers, and some other serious offenders – would have their sentences reduced. Nearly 200,000 inmates have been let go early since mid-2002 –most after serving no more than 10 percent of the time ordered by a judge. By year’s end, officials expect that all inmates sentenced to county jail will serve at least 25 percent of their sentences.
The change was criticized by some lawmakers and victims advocates. Officials said it would eliminate the risk of lawsuits charging that treating inmates differently is unconstitutional. Sheriff Lee Baca also acted out of concern that savvy defendants were refusing to agree to work release or community service, knowing they would leave jail within days. “I want to end the gaming of early release by defendants in court,” Baca said. “I trust what the district attorneys and city attorneys are telling me. They can’t get the plea bargains at the level they’d like to see.” District Attorney Steve Cooley called current practices “incredibly upside down and backwards, arbitrary, capricious and unacceptable. Prostitutes in Long Beach did no time and prostitutes in Compton did all their time,” he said. “How does that make sense? ‘