State unloads inmates on counties
by Denise Ellen Rizzo / Tracy Press
Nov 04, 2011 | 7466 views | 11 11 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Inmates in the Z dormitory at Deuel Vocational Institution hang out in their bunks on Tuesday afternoon.  The Z dormitory will soon close as the inmate population in the prison is reduced.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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The sounds of idle chatter from inmates inside Deuel Vocational Institution’s gymnasium dorm have fallen silent since prison officials began reverting former overcrowded housing spaces into recreational areas.

The transformation of institutions such as DVI to alleviate inmate overcrowding has spread across the state like wildfire since a federal mandate, Assembly Bill 109, was initiated Oct. 1. DVI officials have already reclaimed a day room and gymnasium formerly known as C and Y dorms, which had housed close to 200 inmates.

“Big changes,” DVI spokesman Lt. George Paul said. “Historic legislation — looks great on paper…

“It is a great plan. All these overcrowding beds — day rooms and areas used in the institution to house inmates — will go back to their original intent.”

In the next two years, California’s 33 prisons must lower their numbers by 34,000 inmates by May 2013. At the rural Tracy prison, officials are working to whittle down from a 220 percent capacity with more than 3,500 inmates there each day to 147 percent capacity at 2,400 inmates.

The effort began with converting the 20- and 40-bed C and Y overflow dorms, with Z and H dorms soon to follow

“The great part of AB 109, all this overcrowding will go away,” Paul said. “By the summer of 2012, we should be fully converted, pieces at a time.”

AB 109 was a legislative response to judicial action: A panel of three federal judges ruled that inmate overcrowding in California prisons must be reduced to 137.5 percent of planned capacity by 2013. The ruling sprang from two ongoing class action lawsuits involving inmate medical care and mental health care that were filed in November 2006 to address the U.S. Prison Litigation Reform Act.

To make AB 109 work, the California Legislature had to shift housing responsibility for certain nonviolent and low-level offenders from prisons to county jails.

According to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011-12 budget, AB 109 is expected to save the state’s general fund $485.8 million.

The shift appears to be good news for prison officials, but not for county jail sites, such as San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp.

County-level officials anticipate an inundation of inmates that will fill their limited bed space.

San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore, who oversees the county jail, said his concerns are twofold: space and cost.

“We’re supposed to get 221 inmates between Oct. 1 and the end of June,” Moore said, “and an additional 82 parole violators for a total of 303 by the end of the fiscal year. The first month of October, we were supposed to get 32 sent (here) and five parole violators. What we got was about a dozen inmates sentenced and over 200 parolees.”

Moore said he has enough beds to handle the people the county system has been given so far, but he’s unsure about the future. He said if they get as many as they did in the first month of AB 109, they’ll be out of bed space fast.

The jail inmate cap is 1,411 beds in San Joaquin County, the sheriff said, so anything over that number will result in a ruling to release some inmates early to keep the population under control. This year, the average daily count has hovered around 1,220, he said.

To help with the inmate crunch, Moore said he has plans to double the size of the jail, with new construction plans still in the works. But it will be at least three or four years before that project breaks ground, because there’s no funding source for it.

It’s cheaper to house an inmate at the county jail than in prison, but it still costs the county money — $151 a day, per inmate. San Joaquin County Jail was given more than $2 million to help with AB 109 changes this year. The county used that money to hire 12 more deputies, a deputy sheriff and extra support staff, in the wake of losing 33 correctional officers to budget cutbacks last year.

Moore said space is a problem, but his biggest fear is that the state-provided funding will evaporate after the first year of the program.

“The county would have to come up with $10.2 million more each year to cover the original costs for realignment (if the state no longer funds it),” Moore said.

From the view of state prisons, AB 109 appears to be an unqualified win: By lowering inmate population, it also enables prisons to reinstate discarded programs. In the case of DVI, prison officials are looking forward to bringing back vocational training that was cut a number of years ago.

“We’re scheduled to have five voc programs back,” Paul said, “plumbing, welding, heating-air conditioning, auto body and office services,” which give inmates skills to make an honest living outside the institution’s walls.

For prison industry employees, however, the bill means the likelihood of the loss of thousands of jobs. Last week, potential layoff notices were sent to 26,000 California prison system employees with 10 years or less on the job, including guards, janitors and counselors.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website, DVI was issued 256 of those layoff notices: 147 guards, 14 counselors, and 23 case record technicians.

Paul said it’s too soon to tell what the layoff impact will be at DVI, but official CDC layoff notices are expected to be distributed early this month, with a second wave anticipated for March.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 07, 2011
Keeping only the violent criminals is good but, the ones getting released are in prison for a reason. So keep your garage doors closed when you are not in the garage, keep your doors locked and alarms on, vehicles to. Go get some personal protection because they will be wanting your stuff to feed their drug habbits. It's begining to feel alot like Christmas!
November 06, 2011
I will vote for new governor. This one said he would focus on jobs.

Instead, we got fewer jobs and more unemployed criminals walking the streets.
November 05, 2011
Maybe if I could spell right, I would would have put...... Maybe IF CA actually USED the death penalty, we wouldn't have over crowding!!!! lol
November 05, 2011
Maybe of CA actually USED the death penalty, we wouldn't have over crowding!!!!!!
November 17, 2011
I dont think the 650 inmates there will put much of a dent on the overcrowding!!!
November 05, 2011
It costs the county $151 per day per inmate?

$151 x 1220 average daily inmates = $184,220 per day

$184,220 x 30 days = $5,526,600 per month!

$184,220 x 365 day = $67,240,300 per year!

No way this could be correct. Way to much money.
November 04, 2011
Repeat after me: NO STATE INMATE WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO COUNTY JAILS under AB109. The headline is as sensationalist as it is idiotic and fraudulent.

Your county has been dumping its criminals in the state's lap for far too long. I am now glad that you are taking care of your own and I don't have to pay for it since I live in another county.

Instead of misleading headlines and whining by uninformed citizens and vote hungry politicians you should take advantage of what Texas and New York state have done. Re-integration programs and alternative sentencing. Not only has it resulted in closures of state prisons but it has also reduced the crime rates in these two states and reduced local jail overcrowding. It has proven to reduce recidivism.

And, not even the math in this article works. Parolees are not inmates, they take up no jail space. I quote, "The first month of October, we were supposed to get 32 sent (here) and five parole violators. What we got was about a dozen inmates sentenced and over 200 parolees."

Disingenuous? You bet. You actually received 20 less commitments from your DA and sentencing judges than expected. Note, the state didn't send you ANY inmates.
November 04, 2011
Dont blame me. I didnt vote for the same governor, twice.
November 04, 2011
I understand there islimited funding available thru AB 900 for building some new jail space, but itis not enough and take will many years to complete - definitely not by2013/2014 when 40,000 inmates will have been transferred to the counties. Thatleaves us with two possible scenarios: overcrowded, inhumane county jails –exposing AB 109 as a shell game designed to dump the states problems on ourcounties - or we must stop prosecuting people for "nonviolent/serious" crimes like burglary, car theft, involuntarymanslaughter, drug sales, etc. With the jails full, and the threat of consequencesremoved, what do you think will happen to our crime rate? What offender isgoing to comply with probation or parole when the jails are full? Withincarceration not an option, what are the Courts or the Board of PrisonHearings going to do when the offender removes his GPS? More GPS? Sentencingand parole reform, including programs like the early release of women w/children, would be a much better alternative to solving our overcrowding issuesw/o endangering our communities. There is no need to dismantle parole when it requires a voter approved tax increase and a constitutionalamendment to fund.
November 04, 2011
Unfortunately, realignment addresses the SupremeCourt's concerns regarding overcrowding and inhumane conditions at our stateprisons by shifting the problem to the county level. This is evident given that32 of our county jails are currently under State or Court ordered populationcaps, and LA County, our nations largest system, has been under the Courtordered watch of the ACLU for decades for the same problems. Only a couple ofweeks after the implementation of AB 109, two counties, including Fresno, havealready declared their jails full due to realignment. Riverside County received27 inmates in the first 2 weeks of realignment, with 1 receiving a sentence of14 years, another 9 years, another 6 years, while 3 more received 5 years each- all to be served in local custody. LA County has received over 700 new inmatessince October 1st due to realignment, and expects to be full by Christmas.Jails are not prisons and were not designed to hold hardened criminals for longperiods of time - this will become evident very quickly.

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