Overcrowding in State Prisons Produces Overcrowding in County Jails
California’s failure to meet the 2014 deadline set by a federal court to reduce the prison population to 137% of capacity illustrates the true extent of California’s prison overcrowding problem. In an attempt to alleviate this problem, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had initiated the Realignment Act. This act authorized the transfer of low level felons from state prisons to county jails. However, the Realignment Act has proven to be a failure in that it merely spread the overcrowding problem to local county jails.
County Jails Are Now Facing Major Overcrowding Problems
It is no surprise that overcrowding produces the same detrimental results in jail as it does in prison. The Realignment Act caused not just an influx in inmates, but also a huge influx in violence. Many jails reported an increase in inmate-on-inmate violence by 30% and a rise of assaults on staff by 25%. In addition to being unable to protect inmates and staff from violence, overcrowding has also made jails incapable of meeting the medical needs of many inmates, resulting in class action lawsuits against the state.
Conditions of California’s Two Year Extension to Fix the Problem
Having failed to meet the 2014 deadline, federal judges granted California two additional years to curb prison overcrowding. While a commission was established to recommend changes to the state’s sentencing laws, the judges require immediate and substantial efforts. California is now required to reduce the prison population by 1,000 by the end of June, and must immediately make elderly inmates and inmates with serious health problems eligible for parole. Additionally, California must make repeat felons who were convicted of non-violent crimes eligible for sentence reductions.
The Need to Recognize the Root of the Overcrowding Problem
These mandated actions will fail to solve the prison population problem unless the legislature, the judiciary and the public confront the true problem. Prisons and jails are overcrowded because the legislature has created far too many easily convictable offenses which result in excessive sentences; all while ignoring alternatives to confinement. For example, California’s Three Strike Sentencing Law greatly enhances the sentencing of subsequent offenses; a second strike results in double the normal sentence. Given the finding by the Public Policy Institute of California that 21% of all prisoners were sentenced under the three strike law for having committed their second strike, it becomes clear just how much the legislature contributes to prison overcrowding. Moreover, alternative sentencing and better comprehensive treatment programs are often unavailable or not considered for victimless crimes like drug possession or prostitution.
Even more indicative of the failure of the current system is the fact that the vast majority of prison admission result from parole violation. By the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations own count, 65% of prison parolees will return to prison either for having committed a new crime, or for a violation of their parole. Judges and prosecutors should consider the overcrowding problem when they sentence defendants to lengthy terms. Probation officers should also take this problem into consideration when they make recommendations to the court for harsh prison sentences and refuse to consider other available options which would both ease the prison overcrowding problem and help to rehabilitate the offender.
Wallin & Klarich Can Help
If you are facing allegations that could result in a jail or prison sentence, you should not face these allegations alone. You should speak to our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich who are experienced and know how to protect our client’s rights and help keep our clients out of jail or prison.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, the law firm of Wallin & Klarich have been dealing with serious criminal matters for over 30 years.
We have the knowledge and experience to help. Call (888) 280-6839 today for a free consultation. We will be there when you call.