Tens of thousands of California felons convicted of nonviolent crimes would serve their time in county jails instead of state prisons under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, reports the Los Angeles Times. The measure is designed to reduce the number of inmates in California’s chronically overcrowded state lockups and keep relatively low-level offenders closer to their homes, where drug treatment and mental health services are believed to be more effective.
Supporters hope to save taxpayers money by lowering the number of offenders who return to prison and by housing many parole violators in less expensive county jails. Brown said the program would not begin until the state has money — hundreds of millions of dollars — to transfer to local authorities to defray the costs. Much of that funding was expected to come from the governor’s proposed renewal of several tax hikes that will have expired by the July 1 start of the new budget year. His attempts to get the taxes on a ballot for voter approval, as he promised while running for election, have so far been unsuccessful.