California counties are lining up to secure millions of dollars in state funds to expand jails now that Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan is under way to shift the incarceration of some felons from prisons to jails, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. While many county officials cheer the availability of $600 million in state funds to add more jail beds, opponents of prison expansion say building more incarceration space will discourage prosecutors, police, and other public safety officials from seeking alternatives to lockups.
“We’re terrified that California [ ] is using realignment as a cover to push unnecessary and unneeded jail expansion projects,” said Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, a coalition of more than 40 groups focused on limiting prison spending. “It eliminates the incentive for counties to do things differently.” Brown’s program, known as realignment, took effect Oct. 1 and is designed to ease prison overcrowding by sentencing thousands of nonviolent felons to county jails instead of state prisons. Counties say Brown’s plan means they will need more space to house the 25,000 felons expected to flow into their jails over the next four years. Sheriffs association lobbyist Nick Warner said 32 of the state’s 58 counties are already under state or court-imposed population caps because of existing overcrowding, and jails currently used to house inmates for a maximum of one year are beginning to receive inmates who have 10- or even 20-year sentences.