Saying it would “wreak havoc” in the criminal justice system, District Attorney Steve Cooley warned today that a state budget proposal to transfer thousands of convicted felons and parolees to county custody and supervision threatens the safety of citizens.
“The realignment proposal is a public safety nightmare,” Cooley told the Assembly Budget Subcommittee during a late afternoon hearing in the Board of Supervisors hearing room at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
Don’t miss a thing. Get breaking news alerts delivered right to your inbox
The hearing is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal that would transfer responsibility for specified “lower-level offenders” and parolees from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to individual counties.
Cooley noted that Los Angeles County already faces a severe and chronic jail overcrowding problem that prompted a more than 20-year-old ongoing federal court-mandated population cap on the jail population. This has resulted in many incidents of early release of county jail prisoners over the years.
The District Attorney said that the county’s jails, according to the Sheriff’s own statistics, house about 18,000 inmates. About 90 percent are pre-trial detainees, leaving some 1,800 beds for post-conviction sentencing. Filling those beds now are those sentenced to misdemeanor terms, those sentenced to jail for violating probation, or defendants who have been given a jail term as a condition of a felony probation. These sentenced prisoners are routinely released early.
Cooley estimated that under the Governor’s proposal, up to 9,000 convicted felons would be required to serve their sentences in Los Angeles County. “There is no room in the jails for them,” he said. “Nor is there room for an estimated 6,500 Los Angeles County parole violators who would receive jail terms in lieu of prison under the proposal,” he added.
The District Attorney warned that under the Governor’s budget proposal, “Society will not be adequately protected. Convicted felons will not be adequately punished…Tens of thousands of convicted felons will be on the streets with minimal supervision, threatening all Californians.
“…The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and all other criminal justice entities from law enforcement to the courts would require substantial additional staffing to handle the predictable, significant increase in criminal filings due to felons serving very little or no time in custody,” Cooley warned as he urged the subcommittee to reject the budget proposal.