Orange County Jails More Dangerous Than Ever

Pressure has continued to build up in local jails in Orange County after changes which were introduced in order to reduce the population in state prisons. The state law which is referred to as AB109 required non serious and low level offenders to be sentenced to county jails instead of state prison in order to serve their sentence, no matter how long the sentence might be. Even though this was intended to reduce the population of prisoners in state prisons, it has had a very negative impact on county jails.

County jails have become crowded with serious offenders who are violent and stay longer than for which the jails were originally designed . Gang tensions have become the order of the day in OC jails and even treatments which were not previously needed in these facilities have become a norm. Some of these inmates who are transferred to county jails are more experienced living behind state bars. They bring with them this experience and impose gang politics in county jails. This could explain why the smuggling of drugs and contraband has escalated in county jails. The situation has become risky for not only the inmates but the guards as well.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs recently reported an increase in assaults among inmates from the beginning of 2012 (which is around the period the new state laws were introduced). There were 272 assaults recorded in county jails in 2011. From the start of 2012 until June 26, 277 assaults were already recorded in county jails. This shows that the transformation occurred within just a few months. The dynamics have changed, says Sgt Gary Tinoco. These numbers clearly show that the inmates are more at risk after the realignment.

The inmates are not only more violent, but they are also staying longer. County jails were previously used to host inmates who were waiting for trial or convicted of less serious offenses that took no more than a year. However, this changed after the realignment. The jails are now housing convicts who have been sentenced for up to 6 years.

According to the supervisors of some county jails, the inmates are settling in their bunks and personalizing their little spaces. They are trying to establish their home in that limited space. Officials say that the incidents of drugs being found inside the jails has increased significantly and most of these drugs are found in mail. In order to reduce this, some officials in the sheriff’s department are looking for systems that reduce contraband in jails like using emails instead of mail.

Some officials have even admitted to having used a higher security inmate to work in the jail kitchen which enhances security concerns. County jails have become homes for sophisticated convicts. Some of them are even trying to stress their dominance by taxing their fellow inmates. Officials are becoming more proactive to identify these inmates who are bringing trouble and transfer them to other jails. According to the president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs Tom Dominguez, county jails have become very dangerous and this must be acknowledged by the state.

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