WatchSonoma Watch

Local officials: There’s room for inmates


North Coast jail officials Monday said they have enough beds to house more inmates following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that is expected to cause a spike in county jail populations.

In Monday’s 5-4 decision, the court said that the state must reduce its prison population by about 33,000 inmates over the next two years.

“Right now, I have at least 125 empty beds because we knew that was going to happen,” Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas Allman said.

The key will be whether Gov. Jerry Brown is able to secure funding to help counties deal with an influx of low-level state inmates at county facilities.

“You can’t have counties taking inmates from the state without a way to pay for it,” Sonoma County Sheriff’s Capt. Philip Lawrence said.

Over the last six months, Mendocino County sheriff’s officials have been working with judges, prosecutors and probation officers to bolster alternative sentencing programs and open up jail beds, Allman said. Their efforts include increasing the number of people released with ankle bracelets or to work-release programs.

In Sonoma County, the jail bookings have dropped about 15 percent since 2006. Monday’s population was 956 people, well below the sheriff’s 1,455-person capacity, Lawrence said.

“We could handle additional inmates,” Lawrence said.

However, Sonoma County sheriff’s officials are facing a 25 percent cut to their general budget and stand to lose correctional officer positions.

Counties have also lost essential funding support for alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs. With more inmates, such programs will become even more important tools to help people re-enter the community, Allman said.

Still, housing low-level offenders at county facilities instead of far-flung state ones would likely be better for the inmates, he said.

“It’s going to be easier to acclimate the inmate back to the role of citizen if he’s incarcerated locally,” Allman said.

4 Responses to “Local officials: There’s room for inmates”

  1. RAW says:

    Tent cities like that Sheriff in the SouthWest. Lots of cots per acre. We can take a ton and probably make money at it.

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  2. Pearl Alquileres says:

    …and if the jail fill up, the SO can just off a few inmates & make more room!

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  3. Dan Delgado says:

    Kind of makes it hard to know what to believe. Our county officials keep telling us the sky is falling and everything is cut to the bone. Yet there is plenty of room in the jail and most of the latest round of layoffs are unfilled positions we were told were eliminated in prior rounds of rollbacks.

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  4. bear says:

    Yet another example of how republican economic policies have bounced back on local government. Think you’re not going to pay for this?

    And please don’t blame Jerry Brown just because he’s a hated democrat. I don’t like him, either. Blame the overall economy.

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