Some county jails are facing lawsuits and similar federal oversight due to overcrowding. It’s the same issue that forced the state to relieve its over-crowding by shifting some low-level offenders to county control.
Some of the state’s overcrowding was relieved by the Realignment plan. But several studies claim the U.S. Supreme Court’s order to bring the prisons to constitutional levels will not be met by the Dec 27 deadline.
Seventeen of the state’s 58 counties currently have a court-ordered jail capacity limit.
The lawsuits filed against the counties claim overcrowding harms prisoners’ health and safety. Counties are getting some state funding to accommodate and house the increase in jail populations.
Since the 1980s, many laws have been implemented which keep offenders locked-up longer, regardless of the nature of the offense, which has dramatically increased the incarcerated population of the California.
The main driver of these conditions is the state’s Penal Code, which has become a “morass of complicated sentencing requirements developed over the decades more out of ‘tough on crime’ political posturing than science about what prevents crime,” Lenore Anderson wrote in a Sacramento Bee article.
Anderson claims that these issues can be solved by fixing the Penal Code and enhancing county innovation.
The Public Safety Realignment Law of 2011 allowed for the redistribution of certain low-level offenders to county jails by allocating a portion of state funds for county jails to adding jail capacity.
How the counties spend Realignment funding varies from county to county. Here are some examples:
Three of the 17 counties under federal oversight are Sacramento, Santa Barbara, and San Diego.
Sacramento County has been allocated $13 million in 2011-2012 for Realignment. Added jail capacity will take almost half of the funding, while health care treatment gets nothing.
San Diego County has received about $11.2 million under the law. One percent of the money is allocated for new jails, while health care would get about 12 percent of the funding.
Santa Barbara County will add jail capacity with about $760,000 of its $3.8 million in state funds. Health care services will get nearly $560,000. Almost $2.4 million will be spent on the sheriff’s and probation departments.