The state of California needs to address its overcrowded prisons. The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided the state must release more than 30,000 inmates within two years.
To help meet this demand, California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed a plan to thin the state’s prison population through realignment, compassionate release and alternatives to traditional methods of incarceration.
San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore talked about some of the issues related to the plan with the News-Sentinel on Tuesday afternoon.
Q: What are the county’s cost to house inmates in its jail?
A: Our average costs are about $125 per inmate per day. That figure includes food, clothing, medical care and supervision.
Right now the figure thrown around by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Legislative Analysts’ Office is $25,000 per inmate per year. That figure won’t cover our actual costs. Negotiations are still ongoing, and ultimately, the Legislature has to pass the final amount the counties would get.
I’m working with the California Sheriff’s Association to speak to the Legislature. I’ll be in Sacramento (Wednesday) with the association.
Q: Will the state reimburse county jails to house inmates?
A: We don’t know just yet. The realignment package, Assembly Bill 109, indicates there will be funding for counties holding prisoners. However, the actual dollar figure has not been agreed on yet.
Q: Does this mandatory release mean the streets will be flooded with dangerous criminals?
A: The county jails are not going to get anybody back from prison. That’s not how the plan works. The release will not take anybody out of prison and bring them back here to a county jail. What will happen is if someone is sentenced to three years or less they could do their time in a county jail instead of in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Inmates will still be in custody, just not in CDCR.
Q: What goals are the California Sheriff’s Association fighting for?
A: There are three goals I have for San Joaquin County. My first is enough funding from realignment so we can provide adequate care for our inmates. Second is to have our (Northern California Reentry Facility) in Stockton opened.
Reporter’s note: The complex would be located in the old Northern California Women’s Facility on Arch Road east of Highway 99.
The final goal is that money received for housing inmates could help fund operating costs for a new addition that would provide more beds. Right now our jail has 1,411 beds and there are about 1,200 inmates in custody.
Q: What would be an ideal solution to this problem from a law enforcement perspective?
A: From a law enforcement perspective, you’d rather see these people stay in prison or construct more prisons to house them. But you have to recognize the fact you can’t lock everybody up. You have to find a way to locate offenders who can be productive.
We’re willing to agree on re-entry. We should take people in their last year of sentencing, get them their job training, teach them the basics of life and give them drug and alcohol counseling so they can re-enter society and not return to a life of crime.
It would be best if those services would be offered by local providers. Then the inmates would have a connection when they got out. If those programs are put in place by local providers, we can use them at the county jail level.