California’s plans to ship low-risk prisoners to local jails could cost counties revenue and are raising fears that inmates may be released early, says the San Diego Union-Tribune. Transferring non-sex offender prisoners to county jails are centerpieces of dueling plans put forward by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Senate Democrats as they scramble to close a $19 billion budget gap. The foundation of both proposals is to save the state money by offering counties incentives – including cash and greater alternative sentencing authority – to accept more prisoners.
The initiatives are drawing resistance from San Diego County supervisors, statewide law enforcement groups and Republican lawmakers. “Counties are very concerned and very suspicious,” said Greg Cox, a San Diego County supervisor. Public anger could overwhelm a compromise if it is interpreted as requiring more prisoners to be set free. Early release “is a phrase that makes the sirens go off,” said Jerry Powers, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California. Supporters of both plans say counties will have expanded authority to use alternatives, such as drug treatment and supervised probation. “We're providing them with resources and allowing them to use that money in a way they think is best,” said H.D. Palmer?,? a Department of Finance spokesman. “We don't specify that you have to lock them up.” Sheriffs are not convinced. “They're not giving us enough money to make this happen,” said San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill, president of the California State Sheriffs' Association. “The sheriffs have no control over sentences and we're the ones who are responsible for the inmates. It's unacceptable as it stands.”