A California inmate realignment plan was intended to relieve the state’s overcrowded prison system by keeping more low-level offenders in local jails rather than transferring them to state custody. By giving local agencies more responsibility for monitoring prisoners freed on probation, the state can save hundreds of millions of dollars. The Los Angeles Times reports that city and county efforts to keep tabs on nearly 6,000 felons released in L.A. County alone have prompted confusion and anger, jockeying among agencies for millions in public money and warnings that public safety employees are facing new dangers.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Los Angeles police officers have expanded duties for periodic “compliance checks” on the reassigned former inmates, who served time for nonviolent crimes. The volume of checks means that probation officers, who may already know the ex-convicts and be better positioned to defuse situations that can become confrontational, often aren’t available to go along. In many cases, police or deputies working in teams roll up in multiple squad cars. Law enforcement officials say officers may not know what they are walking into and that teams help ensure safety. Moreover, under the terms of their release, parolees and probationers generally are subject to warrantless searches at any time. Critics, including some elected officials, argue that in some cases, the tactics being used are needlessly intimidating and expensive.