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One sector that benefits from a bad economy: jail inmates

March 6, 2010 |  7:03 am
At the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Jaime Iniguez was awakened Friday morning and told to get ready to leave.

Iniguez, 53, was serving a four-month sentence for drunk driving, his second DUI offense. He wasn't scheduled to be released for another month.

"It's time to celebrate," said Iniguez as he put on his belt outside the downtown jail complex.

Iniguez is a member of a distinct group that benefits during a sour economy: jail inmates.

When times are flush, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has the money to keep jails open and staffed, and the vast majority of sentenced inmates serve most of their time behind bars.

But when times get tough and tax revenues shrink, the department has repeatedly looked to its jail operations to make cuts, freeing thousands of inmates who've served only a fraction of their sentences.

The length of jail stays has ebbed and flowed in tune with L.A. County's budget for more than two decades, leaving the county during financial crunches with some of the weakest jail sentences in the nation.

Read the full story here.

--Jack Leonard and Ruben Vives

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