Pubdate: Mon, 08 Dec 2014
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Dana Littlefield


Sheriff's Officials Link Three-Year Rise to State's Prison-Reduction 
Law Keeping Nonviolent Offenders in County Lockup

Drug and alcohol cases on jail grounds in the county this year, up 
from 221 in all of 2012.

Sheriff's officials are reporting an increase in drugs being smuggled 
into the county's jails over the past three years, a problem they say 
is linked to the state's public safety realignment law.

Passed in 2011, realignment changed the way some nonviolent felons 
are housed and supervised throughout the state. As a result, local 
authorities have had to deal with a new population of offenders some 
authorities have described as more "criminally sophisticated."

"The inmates that would have previously been transferred to state 
prison when sentenced are now staying in local custody to serve their 
time," said Jan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County 
Sheriff's Department.

"They have introduced into the jail the 'prison culture' and drug 
trade that typically was happening in the state prisons," she said.

In 2012, there were 221 drug and alcohol cases in the county's jails, 
a 52 percent increase from the previous year. In each case, a person 
was found in possession of drugs or alcohol or under the influence 
while on jail grounds.

There were 279 cases in 2013, Caldwell said, and 335 cases through 
September of this year.

To help deal with the problem, the department recently installed 
full-body scanners at the central jail in downtown San Diego, Vista 
jail, Las Colinas women's jail in Santee and George Bailey jail in Otay Mesa.

The scanners allow authorities to see contraband hidden on and inside 
a person's body without requiring the inmate to undress. Each unit 
costs about $150,000. After the first year, the service contract is 
$10,000 per year per scanner.

On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors approved the acquisition 
of up to four more scanners to be installed at jails within the next 
three years. The cost of the contract, including five years of 
maintenance, is estimated at $790,000.

Realignment has been described as the biggest change to how criminal 
justice is handled in California in decades. It was intended to help 
the state cut costs and comply with a federal mandate to reduce 
prison overcrowding.

The Associated Press has reported that sheriff's officials believe 
some parolees around the state are intentionally committing minor 
violations so they can smuggle drugs into the jails, knowing they 
won't be locked up for long.

Under realignment, offenders who violate the terms of parole can be 
sent to jail for up to 180 days, although they are more likely to 
serve half that time. Some offenders who break the rules while under 
parole or probation supervision can be sent to jail immediately for 
up to 10 days - a policy known as flash incarceration.

Caldwell said there have been instances in San Diego in which 
offenders have shown up for booking with concealed drugs. She said 
investigators have learned that some offenders are being persuaded to 
bring in the narcotics.

AP surveyed the 10 most populous counties and found that seven have 
seen significant increases in narcotics cases since 2011, including 
San Diego. The others were Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, 
Sacramento, San Bernardino and Santa Clara counties.
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