Los Angeles County began seeking solutions to reduce overcrowding in its jails in 2011. Several problems, including a dramatic dip in revenues and the state realignment program, have shifted many prisoners who would otherwise be bound for state prisons into the county jail.
The Los Angles Police Department (LAPD) doled out almost $81 million in the last fiscal year to settle lawsuits, the Los Angeles Times reported.
An increase in parolees under county supervision also has caused overcrowding to become a “looming crisis” despite serious efforts to reduce the number of inmates by using electronic subpoenas, video arraignments and early disposition programs.
“To reduce the jail population and achieve system-wide savings, every criminal justice agency leader must commit to reducing unnecessary detention and incarceration in the interests of justice and the efficient use of taxpayer resources,” according to a report by the Vera Institute of Justice.Vera worked in conjunction with the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee to review policies and procedures, convene focus groups and meetings and collect and analyze data from several agencies within the county criminal justice system. In addition, Vera conducted extensive interviews and site visits, plus reviewed the legal and research literature on topics germane to its goal.
In Vera’s revised final report released in September 2011, the institute urged criminal justice agencies to collaborate in order to reduce overcrowding.
To accomplish this, law enforcement, the courts, prosecutors and probation officers must find a way to create consensus on how best to use the available jail space and find alternatives for the overflow. The report suggested that rewarding the efforts of the criminal justice to comply could encourage cooperation.
The report also recommended that the county must address several systematic problems to get defendants assessed and released faster, including refining the probation system and improving inter-agency communication and data-keeping systems.
An additional recommendation was that law enforcement agencies keep mentally ill, intoxicated and homeless people out of the criminal justice system, which can impede prisoner processing.
For all these recommendations to be successful, Vera advised, the agencies involved must work with a sense of urgency and commitment.