Despite Hilton Case, L.A. Judges Can’t Stop Most Jail Releases


Don’t expect other inmates released early from the Los Angeles County Jail to be thrown back in to serve their full sentences, despite what happened to Paris Hilton. So top judges and prosecutors tell the Los Angeles Times. They say there are a variety of practical, political, and legal issues that prevent challenging Sheriff Lee Baca’s policy of releasing inmates well before their sentences end. Judges said the practical realities of jail overcrowding and the fact that judges rarely learn when defendants are released mean there is little they can do to halt the practice.

Court administrators insist that most judges also appreciate the difficulties that confront the sheriff in trying to manage an overcrowded, violence-prone jail system that is the largest in the nation. In the Hilton case, prosecutors said they had a strong legal argument to challenge Baca because the sheriff cited undisclosed medical problems in his decision to send her home with an electronic ankle bracelet. In the vast majority of early releases, the Sheriff’s Department cites overcrowding concerns as the reason. The department has freed inmates early for nearly 20 years under a federal court order that requires it to relieve overcrowding.


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