Thirty-two of California’s 58 counties plan to add new jails or expand lockups to deal with an influx of inmates from Gov. Jerry Brown‘s realignment program, which will send thousands of newly sentenced offenders to county jails instead of state prisons, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. By 2015, counties are expected to house 58,700 more inmates under realignment, which was Brown’s solution to reducing the state prison population to comply with a federal court order stemming from lawsuits over the deteriorating, overcrowded conditions.
Counties say they need to build jails or expand their facilities to avoid similar lawsuits over inadequate conditions and to offer rehabilitation services that will help reduce recidivism. Opponents of jail expansion say counties around the state are using rehabilitation as a justification to do what they have long wanted to do: build more jail beds. “If you build it, they will fill it, and it isn’t best for public safety to always focus so much on incarcerating,” said Allen Hopper of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “In San Mateo County, they are talking about a $160 million new facility. I hear the sheriff say, ‘We need sufficient space for rehabilitation, and that costs more.’ OK, but do you need to expand overall capacity in the way you are talking about?”