California jail violence rises on reforms
Posted in the Martinez Forum
#1 Nov 29, 2013
AP Exclusive: Calif. jail violence rises on reforms
County jails that account for the vast majority of local inmates in California have seen a marked increase in violence since they began housing thousands of offenders who previously would have gone to state prisons.
Many of the 10 counties that account for 70 percent of Californias total jail population have experienced a surge in the number of inmate fights and attacks on jail employees, according to assault records requested by The Associated Press.
The spike corresponds to a law championed by Gov. Jerry Brown in which lower-level offenders are sentenced to county jails instead of state prisons. Some jails have seen violence dip, but the trend is toward more assaults since the law took effect on Oct. 1, 2011.
Brown sought realignment of the states penal system in response to federal court orders requiring the reduction of prison overcrowding as the main way of improving medical and mental health treatment for state inmates. But the change has shifted many of the same problems the state had experienced to local jails.
Nearly 2,000 more jail inmates were assaulted by other inmates in the first year after the realignment law took effect, up about one-third over the previous year, the figures compiled by the AP show. Attacks on jail employees increased by 165 during the same period.
A rise in the level of violence in jails was likely to be inevitable under the law because of the higher number of additional felons being sentenced to counties.
Yet the increase significantly outpaces the overall growth in the jail population for the 10 counties surveyed during the same time period. On average, the combined population grew 14 percent through 2012 while inmate-on-inmate assaults rose 32 percent and inmate-on-staff assaults rose 27 percent.
By June, the 10 counties jails held nearly 58,000 inmates, about 7,600 more than their rated capacity.
Beyond the realignment law adding to jail crowding, county sheriffs say it also changed the nature of the inmates they are overseeing.
Youre seeing a little more gang influence inside the jails and a little more violence, said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, whose county has seen attacks on jail employees more than double.Certainly, the sophistication level of these inmates is different.
Only those convicted of violent, sexual or serious crimes now go to state prisons, leaving so-called lower-level criminals to serve what can be years long sentences in local jails that were designed to hold offenders for no more than a year. Parolees who violate conditions of their release also now generally serve their time in county jails.
The violence is just being transferred to the local facilities from the state system, said Fresno County Assistant Sheriff Tom Gattie, who oversees the countys lockups.
Fresno County is one of several counties being sued by the same law firms that forced the state to reduce prison crowding, and for the same reasons. The countys jail population increased 78 percent between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 1, 2013, including a 40 percent increase since the realignment law took effect. Reports of inmate-on-inmate fights have increased 48 percent.
Linda Penner, a Brown appointee who is chairwoman of the California Board of State and Community Corrections, which is helping counties with the transition, said the realignment law has been a game-changer but said officials plan to design new training for county jail deputies next year.
In Sacramento County, assaults on jail employees soared 164 percent, the greatest percentage increase of any large county. Yet its jail population has not grown and remains near its rated capacity of 4,125 inmates.
#2 Nov 29, 2013
that's why they are locked up in the first place. Animals belong in the wild or in a cage. If these spawn of liberalism can't force themselves to get along in society then it's jail or death, let them choose.
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