California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that will cause thousands nonviolent felons to serve their time in county jails instead of state prisons. Here in Los Angeles County, that will likely mean a great deal to the inmates. Here in Los Angeles County we typically see inmates in county jail serving only a small percentage of their given sentence. For Felonies it is common that my client serve a third of their sentence or even less in some cases.
Other counties differ greatly from Los Angeles. Just next door in Ventura County, inmates typically serve 66% of their sentences, as the law requires. Specifically, California Penal Codes Section 4019 provides for one day of good time credit and one day of work time credit for inmates after they have served four days in jail. This amounts to a one third reduction in jail time for inmates.
While I certainly see this bill as a potential savings to taxpayers, I am concerned about it’s impact on overcrowded county jail facilities like Los Angeles. Inmates in Los Angeles County jail are subject to overcrowding, filth, and a severe lack of resources. This would certainly impact the states ability to rehabilitate inmates. Without an attempt at rehabilitation, are we not merely creating even more of a revolving door to the state’s custody facilities? In the end, will this not cost the state even more money to re-house the very same inmates at a later time or times?
Shortly after the Governor took office a few short years ago he changed the name of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation by adding the word “rehabilitation” to the name. Let us hope this was not the extent of the State’s attempt at rehabilitation.