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Lawmakers vote to rollback county inmate early release program

April 29, 2010 | 12:14 pm

State lawmakers moved on Thursday to repeal much of a new program that allows the early release of county jail inmates.

The Senate voted to rollback the program after lawmakers expressed public safety concerns. They cited news reports of a Sacramento man who was arrested for attempted rape within hours of his early release.

The early release provision for county inmates was one of many sweeping changes lawmakers approved for state and county lockups last year to save money and deal with overcrowding. It was put in place as the state, under pressure from the federal courts to reduce its prison population, began sending thousands of parole violators who would normally go to state prison to county jails and other local programs instead. That created new overcrowding concerns on the county level, so legislators passed a law allowing counties to increase early release for many of their inmates. The new law allows inmates to earn enough good behavior credits to have their sentence reduced by half. Previously it could only be reduced by one-third for credits earned.

On Thursday, the Senate voted to go back to the old system. The measure, SB 1487, was supported by the California State Sheriffs' Assn. and the Chief Probation Officers of California.

"Common  sense needs to prevail," said state Sen. Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach), who had opposed the early release plan approved last year. "Never should we jeopardize our public safety requirements as legislators simply to balance our budget."

DEmocrats also supported the measure, saying the system had not worked out as planned. The legislation next goes to the state Assembly for consideration. Lawmakers have yet to move on any alternative plans for easing the overcrowding in county lockups that threatens to begin anew if SB 1487 is signed into law.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento