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L.A. County sheriff gives early release to 200 inmates, saying there was no place to house them

March 4, 2010 |  2:52 pm

At least 200 inmates received early releases from the L.A. County jail system this week because officials couldn't find beds for them as the Sheriff's Department attempted to downsize the population of a detention facility in Castaic.

The action occurred as the Sheriff's Department is trying to cuts its budget by about 9% by reducing deputy overtime and slashing the inmate population at the north facility of the Pitchess Detention Center.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the inmates were released beginning Tuesday. Sheriff's Department policy requires that most male inmates serve at least 80% of their sentence. Whitmore said these inmate were released after serving only about 50% of their sentence because there was nowhere else to place them.

The releases came the same day Sheriff Lee Baca told The Times in an interview he didn't believe the proposed cuts would require early releases. Whitmore said Baca was informed about the early releases after the interview.

It remains unclear how many more inmates will be released early. 

On Tuesday, Baca said the department was "still a long way away" from accelerating the early releases of inmates from the county jail system.

Baca said he was considering $128 million in cuts over the next 16 months -- or about 9% of the sheriff's nearly $1.3-billion general fund budget.

Most of the savings -- about $58 million -- would be achieved through reductions in overtime. Sheriff's officials said many of the uniformed deputies assigned to administrative duties would work schedules that otherwise would be filled by deputies accruing overtime.

The sheriff's command staff, including Baca himself, also would help fill gaps in law enforcement staffing, whether it is out on the streets or in the jails.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: L.A. Times file

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