Media reports suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the mass release of up to 46,000 California prisoners are inaccurate, says Celeste Fremon in her Witness L.A. blog. More likely, says Fremon, is a “realignment” policy that would send parole violators and others with very short sentences to jail instead of prison. Last year, 47,000 inmates served 90 days or fewer in state prisons.
If for example, 34,000 of those were instead kept in county jails, rather than going through the costly process of being carted up to one of the state prison reception centers for testing for a couple of months, and then assigned to a prison for a month or less, then released, the court-ordered population reduction would be accomplished, without any kind of sentence reduction or risk to public safety, Fremon says. The problem is that counties would have to be reimbursed for handling those inmates, which would require voters approval to extend temporary tax increases enacted in 2009. Still, the state Sheriff’s Association supports the idea, saying that, “Simply saying no, as many have done, is no longer a credible answer.”