Just a few months ago, California's inmates were packed into double- and triple-stacked bunk beds in prison gymnasiums, classrooms, and other areas never meant for housing. Now those beds are empty, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The prison population is declining, but not because there are fewer criminals. Instead, a new state law shifted the responsibility for some lower-level offenders to the county jails, which are filling up. State officials have “taken the monkey off their back and put it on ours,” said San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore, whose department runs seven county jails.
In the nearly eight months since the law took effect, Gore has used a number of strategies to ward off jail crowding, including early releases, but he insists the county is handling the load. He and other officials have said that with proper funding the local authorities can do better than the state at rehabilitating criminals so they're less likely to end up back behind bars. “We can't warehouse these inmates,” Gore said. At Donovan prison in Otay Mesa, rows of graffiti-scarred bunks sit empty in a gym where more than 150 men once slept in an area the size of a basketball court. A couple of inmates likened the experience to “living in the crazy house.” “It's horrible. It's violent. It's crowded,” said David Dewrance, 50, who spent almost two years in a gym trying to rest and study for his correspondence courses.