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Sheriff Baca seeks power to let some felons out of county jail early

Sheriff Baca seeks power to let some felons out of county jail early
An inmate sleeps in a room on the 4th floor of the medical unit of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO -- While Gov. Jerry Brown wrestles with a court order to reduce the state prison population, county sheriffs are quietly seeking more flexibility to reduce the number of felons in their county jails.

A bill requested by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was approved this week by the state Senate. It would allow county jail inmates to earn sentence-reducing credits if they complete classes to improve their employability, literacy or social skills.

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Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said it makes sense to allow credits for non-violent felons sent to jails instead of prisons under a state realignment plan.

“Let’s equip sheriffs with tools to help inmates function better before they’re released back into our communities,” Mitchell said recently. “New skills, better behavior, improved employment prospects will, hopefully, reduce recidivism and make communities safer.”

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The measure is also supported by the California Public Defenders Assn. and the California State Sheriff’s Assn.

But some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber, voted Thursday against AB 624, saying it just means criminals will escape the full punishment they deserve.

“It’s simply another reduction of sentence, a compromise of justice,” Nielsen said on the Senate floor.

The bill had previously been approved by the Assembly but goes back to that house for approval of amendments before heading to the governor’s desk.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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