The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday endorsed a county bid to seek an additional $24 million from the state to build a 160-bed detention and probation facility, but not before asking probing questions about the center’s hefty operating costs and how it would fit in the county’s criminal justice strategy.
Concerned that opponents will block or gut a federal immigration bill in the Congress, Sonoma County immigration advocates are now marshaling efforts to pass a bill in Sacramento that would reduce deportations of people held in local jails.
The sheriffs of Sonoma and Mendocino counties joined law enforcement from across the state in Sacramento this week to bend Gov. Jerry Brown’s ear about the impact of the diversion of state prisoners to county supervision.
The diversion of state prisoners to county supervision has changed the culture in Sonoma County’s jail, making it more violent, while forcing the early release of petty criminals, Sheriff Steve Freitas said Wednesday.
Attacks on correctional deputies have increased 72 percent since the dramatic shift was instituted 12 months ago and fights between inmates are increasing, he said. However, he said he could not immediately provide specific data on the specific numbers of such incidents.
At the same time, the influx of more serious felons serving longer sentences has required the jail to release those convicted of lesser offenses on electronic home confinement, Freitas said.
Over nine months ending in September, the jail released 231 people eligible for detention alternatives who were serving time for such offenses as drunken driving, drug use and theft, Freitas said.
More than 100 people gathered in front of the Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa on Thursday afternoon for a prayer vigil to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a legislation limiting local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents.
Randall Walker, a 21-year veteran of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, has been appointed assistant sheriff in charge of the county jail system and related programs. In naming him to the post, Sheriff Steve Freitas commended Walker’s work in the detention division, where he has served as a captain since 2007. Freitas praised in particular Walker’s work with community groups dealing with civil rights, diversity and mental illness.
A 20-year-old Windsor man behind a rash of commercial burglaries was the first to be sentenced in Sonoma County under a new state law that requires certain offenders to serve their time in local jails rather than state prison. The law, designed to reduce prison overcrowding, may be the biggest change to the county’s criminal justice system in a generation. Some are concerned that local officials are not equipped to handle hundreds of additional offenders entering the county jail and probation system each year.
A statewide effort to reduce prison crowding that shifts a sizable burden to counties has been labeled the biggest change to Sonoma County’s criminal justice system in a generation. Beginning Oct. 1, low-level felons normally sentenced to prison will instead be kept at the county jail. And inmates usually released under state parole supervision will be transferred to county probation jurisdiction.