Jail Overcrowding Impact on California Counties
It is no secret that California county jails have become increasingly overcrowded as a result of the 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment Act. “Realignment” was the Legislature’s answer to the United States Supreme Court mandate that ordered California to reduce its prison population by the end of 2013. The jail overcrowding impact on California is being felt on a county-by-county basis.
Citing a violation of California prisoners’ rights to be free from cruel or unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court decided that California must reduce its overall state prison population to no more that 137.5% capacity (approximately 110,000 prisoners total) in order to avoid woefully inadequate inmate access to proper medical and mental health treatment.
Does this Mean California Must Release Prisoners Early?
The Supreme Court didn’t require California to release prisoners early. The Justices simply said California couldn’t hold convicted felons in state prisons beyond the 137.5 % maximum threshold. Tens of thousands of convicted felons have since been redirected either out of state or into county jails. However, county jails are now becoming overcrowded.
Varying Jail Overcrowding Impact on California
For some, it could be like a “get out of jail free card.” With little room left and few other options, county officials in densely populated counties are permitting some inmates, generally those sentenced to low-level, non-serious or non-violent and non-sex-related jail terms to serve alternative forms of sentencing, such as community service, work-release programs or home confinement.
However, counties with lower populations typically have fewer problems associated with jail overcrowding. People sentenced in these counties are often given fewer opportunities for alternative sentencing by the courts and are required to serve larger portions of their sentences behind bars.
Regardless of where you live, if you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side who is familiar with how each county handles its jail overcrowding issues.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Recently, Wallin & Klarich attorneys obtained an alternative sentence for a client facing a DUI charge with a very high blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .021. That’s almost three times the legal limit in California. Our client had a prior DUI, as well as a previous felony conviction. A jail sentence (and possible deportation) was almost certain.
Upon pleading guilty, our Wallin & Klarich attorney persuaded the judge to grant this client home confinement (“custody” served in one’s home wearing an ankle bracelet) in lieu of 120 days in jail.
State law authorizes jail inmates “good time/work time” (or conduct) credit amounting to two days credit for every one day served, commonly referred to as “half time.” In other words, a defendant sentenced to 120 days in jail is only required to serve 50% of his or her sentence – 60 days – as long as he or she behaves while incarcerated.
Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County has the most overcrowded jail population in the state. State law permits county supervisors to authorize the sheriff to grant early releases to inmates in order to avoid unlawful overcrowding – commonly referred to as an “early kick.” Inmates sentenced in Los Angeles County routinely serve a fraction of their entire jail time, with some serving as little as 20% of their sentence
Knowing this, Los Angeles County prosecutors will often demand excessive jail sentences, and the courts are often willing to agree with the prosecutor’s demands. The end result is longer sentences are becoming increasingly more common in Los Angeles County courts.
Realignment has not impacted Ventura County the same way as it has in more populated California counties. As a result, Ventura County jail facilities have not experienced the level of overcrowding more commonly found in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Defendants convicted in Ventura County are not as likely to be offered alternative sentencing options such as community service, work release or home confinement. Additionally, they can expect to serve a statutory minimum 50% of their sentences while incarcerated in county jail.
Hiring Wallin & Klarich Can Help You Avoid Serving Jail Time
If you or someone you know is facing jail time for a criminal matter, you need to contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experience successfully defending thousands of clients facing criminal charges. Helping you win your case is our first priority.
Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich focus on criminal defense in Southern California, where we are very familiar with the local judges and prosecutors you are likely to face. We will use every available strategy to negotiate for a reduction or dismissal of your charges. If pleading guilty is your best option, we are also familiar with county jail facilities. We know who and how to ask for alternatives to incarceration.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you protect your freedom.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.