As overcrowding in California state prisons persists, state and local government officials must deal with a July 3 mandate from a panel of federal judges ordering the release of 9,600 inmates.
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Gov. Jerry Brown appealed the order, with support from the four living former governors: George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Brown argues that the release of thousands of dangerous criminals would guarantee that more Californians would become crime victims at a time when the state is already experiencing higher crime rates.
In 2011, Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, in an attempt to deal with state prison overcrowding by transferring nonviolent, nonsexual offenders to county jails.
The bill was initially passed to enable California to close the revolving door of low-level inmates cycling in and out of state prisons, according to the state’s website.
But local government officials, such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, worry that the program will put too much strain on county jails, which are already overcrowded, and release offenders too soon, putting California residents at risk.
“Of the 16,000 parolees dumped in Los Angeles County for supervision, there have been 17,000 new arrests,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Antonovich. “More arrests than the number of parolees under supervision, because some of those parolees have committed more than one crime.”
Bell said that releasing inmates before they have served their full term is “a recipe for disaster.”
While the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the state’s appeal will not be announced until this Fall at the earliest, without a stay to prevent the releases, all 9,600 inmates may already be free before the court hears argument.
“By refusing to delay the releases until the state’s appeal can be heard, the three-judge panel has condemned an unknown number of Californians to be assaulted, robbed or murdered by the hardened criminals they insist must be released immediately,” said Kent Scheidegger, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation’s legal director and author of the four Governors’ brief. “We are hoping that the Supreme Court will recognize this and stop the releases until the state’s appeal is decided.”
Bell added that the best way for taxpayers to fight realignment is to “tell their elected officials to stop realignment, and stop it now.”
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