California Gov. Jerry Brown’s two-year-old plan to ease crowding in state prisons has left county jails struggling with hard-core felons sentenced to spend years or decades, in facilities meant to hold criminals for up to a year, reports the Los Angeles Times. County sheriffs say long-term inmates are more than they can handle. They say the inmates pose security threats in crowded lockups and invite costly lawsuits over medical care and services that have dogged prisons.
“Our facilities were never constructed to manage an inmate for longer than a year,” said Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, president of the state sheriffs association. Now, California has had more than 1,300 inmates sentenced to five years or more in jails, says a sheriffs association survey and reports by jails. Los Angeles County jails hold more than 530 inmates sentenced to terms of five years or more, 43 of them for more than a decade. Brown initially dismissed the complaints. He now acknowledges the problem, but efforts to fix it have become mired in the politics of prison crowding.