A plan that was designed to reduce prisoners’ population in state prisons has had very negative effects on county jails in Orange County. According to the new state laws passed a few years ago, lower level criminals are transferred from state prisons to local jails in order to serve the remainder of their sentence. This move has made safety to be a serious concern in county jails.
The inmates who have been transferred from state prisons have become a high security risk. Some of them are parolees who have committed crimes and are sent back to custody. Others are offenders who have been sentenced to more than 6 years in jail. Before the state laws were passed, parolees used to be sent back to state prisons when they committed an offense.
One of the reasons for the increase in violence in local jails is that these prisoners come with a longer criminal background. They already have an established criminal history and the experience of living in prison. The convicts utilize this experience to hoard drugs and contraband in local jails. Others even form gangs and try to prove their power by taxing other inmates.
According to Sgt Gary Tinoco, who was recently in charge of the inmate classification unit in Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the state’s realignment has caused the dynamics of county jails to change. Officials also say that county jails have experienced a very rapid transformation after the new law. The responsibility of housing thousands of inmates was shifted from the state prison to the county governments.
The fact that many of these realigned inmates are serving longer sentences compared to local offenders is making the situation worse. Supervisors have found drugs and contraband being smuggled into the jail via mail. According to,” Assistant Sheriff Mike James, they have had to use higher security inmates to work in risky environments like the kitchen. This has increased the security concern even further. The jail officials have to keep an eye on the inmates who are assigned to work in that environment. This poses a risk for other inmates and the guards as well.
Housing has also become a challenge for county jails. Due to the rise of high-risk inmates, it has become difficult to decide where they will be placed inside the jails. Deputies are tasked to know where to place the inmates based on their history. The deputies have to keep an eye and identify inmates who are involved in gang politics and separate all the members. A high number of the realigned prisoners are taken to county jail after violating terms of their release. Most of these inmates have already spent time in state prisons so they present a higher risk.
The officials are taking various measures to reduce the rate of violence in county jails. The Sheriff’s Department is considering a plan for all deputies to be checking the inmates every hour. This move is intended to reduce the number of violent incidents that occur in county jails.