L.A. won’t outsource 500 jail inmates to Kern County

Christina Villacorte (Los Angeles Daily News) | October 29, 2013

Even though Los Angeles County’s own lockups are bursting at the seams, a divided Board of Supervisors backtracked Tuesday on an unprecedented plan to outsource the jailing of 500 inmates to distant Kern County.

The board had voted 3-2 on Sept. 24 to approve a five-year $75?million contract to send long-term inmates to a facility in the city of Taft, near Bakersfield.

That deal fell through Tuesday when Supervisor Gloria Molina switched sides after learning Taft is embroiled in a lawsuit with the state over the facility.

“They’re going to court next year, and we did not know that,” Molina said. “They misrepresented that the contract was ready to be signed, that everything was ready to go, and it isn’t.”

Taft sued the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, alleging it breached a contract to house prisoners in its facility.

Sheriff Lee Baca’s spokesman, Steve Whitmore, expressed disappointment over the decision, saying the county jail system is at 95 percent of capacity.

“We’re near the breaking point,” he said.

Whitmore said the county jail system currently holds about 19,000 inmates, including 6,000 who would have been in state prisons if not for a state law, AB 109, which sent nonviolent and nonsex offender inmates to county jails instead.

“This is disappointing, but we’re going to keep working towards finding alternatives so we can free up bed space that is at an absolute premium in the L.A. County jail system,” Whitmore said.

Among those alternatives are “fire camps” where about 500 inmates can earn credits to shorten their sentences by helping the Fire Department battle wildfires, and municipal jails in the cities of Shafter, Delano and Coalinga, all in California’s Central Valley, more than 100 miles away.

It costs $72-$112 a day to house an inmate in Los Angeles, but only about $60 a day at Taft, Shafter, Delano and Coalinga. At fire camps, it’s about $73 a day.

Whitmore said the sheriff will also look at expanding the use of ankle bracelets, and sending more inmates to treatment centers. He said there are no plans to expand the early release program, which currently applies to a small percentage of low-risk inmates.

Read more at: http://www.dailynews.com/government-and-politics/20131029/la-wont-outsource-500-jail-inmates-to-kern-county

Photo credit: Irfan Kahn /  Los Angeles Times

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