Thieves, drug offenders, and other repeat criminals are cycling in and out of jail faster than ever in Los Angeles County, reports the Los Angeles Times. Since 2000, the number of people booked two or more times into jails in Los Angeles County in a single year has jumped 73 percent, reaching 61,646 last year. Repeat offenders now account for 42 percent of bookings, up from 26 percent in 2000. Once booked, defendants enter a justice system whose resources have not kept pace with demand, even as crime has dropped.
Declares the Times: “There are not enough prosecutors to try them. There are not enough courts to sentence them. There are not enough jail or prison beds to house them. And there is not enough treatment to help them.” Repeat offenders drain limited justice resources and are quickly back on the streets to get arrested again, taking up the time of police, prosecutors, public defenders and judges. Patrol cops are frustrated. Victims feel forgotten. “Under any other definition of crisis, this would be an emergency,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who runs the nation’s largest jail system. “The system is collapsing because of its volume.” A solution, top law enforcement officials say, would require far more money than lawmakers have been willing to commit. To gauge the effects of the revolving door, The Times examined jail bookings and interviewed prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, law enforcement leaders, and criminologists.