The "realignment" that Gov. Jerry Brown championed to reduce overcrowding in state prisons has, in turn, created overcrowding in county jails that were already in some distress, according to a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California.
"We show that a number of facilities are old and likely in need of costly updates or replacement and that growth in the state's population is likely to exert significant pressure on the county jail system," PPIC's report, released Wednesday, says.
The state has been under heavy pressure from federal courts to reduce prison crowding and with a judicial takeover of the system looming, Brown negotiated a deal with county officials under which felons deemed to be non-dangerous would be diverted into local jails, rather than sent to state prisons.
In addition, the state would release some inmates from prison into locally managed parole and pay for all of the diversions by giving counties a bigger share of sales taxes.
The prison population has dropped dramatically to near the level fixed by the courts but there have been complaints from some local law enforcement officials that filling county jail cells with felons has forced them to incarcerate fewer misdemeanor offenders and thus put more of them back in the community. There also have been complaints that the money from the state isn't enough to cover costs.
While the state has provided some money to build new jails, not only do they face crowding but many are aged and deteriorating, so more money is needed to expand capacity and bring facilities up to date, the PPIC report says. To do what's needed, it says, as many as 14,600 new jail beds will be needed by 2040 at a cost of $4 billion.
However, those capital costs can be mitigated by more aggressive use of non-incarceration programs to prevent offenders from repeating their crimes.
"Our analysis suggests that the jail capacity challenge is unlikely to be met exclusively through either increased jail construction or decreased reliance on incarceration," PPIC says. "Meeting this challenge will probably require a thoughtful combination of efforts carried out jointly by the state and the counties."
PHOTO: Inmates inside the jail cells in the old Stanislaus County downtown main jail in Modesto on Wednesday June 19, 2013.The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.