Tuesday, September 17, 2013

California Setting Up Firefighter Prisons

In a bid to ease jail crowding and increase time served by serious criminal offenders, Los Angeles County supervisors agreed Tuesday to spend millions to house more than 500 inmates at government firefighting camps in mountain and foothill areas.

The $27-million, three-year deal will send 528 county inmates serving long-term sentences to five fire camps, jointly operated with the state prison system, that are scattered across the county.

Supervisors acted after some complained about the increasing number of criminals -- including some serving time for violent offenses -- who are being released after serving a fraction of their sentences.

Inmate firefighters based at a camp in Azusa
 fight a Tehachapi wildfire. (Los Angeles Times)

As a result of budget cuts and so-called prison realignment, which shifted responsibility for some lower-level felons from state prison to county jails, inmates sentenced to county jail on some violent and sexual offenses currently serve 40% of their sentences. Lower-level offenders serve even smaller shares of their sentences.
Inmates coming to the county under realignment now make up 32% of the county's jail population. They are required to complete their full sentences, but now will be eligible to serve time in selected fire camps. That will free up county jail beds so other inmates can serve more of their sentences.  (L.A. Times, 9/17/2013)

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