An Inland Empire lawmaker’s bill to modify a state law that he and others believe has contributed to overcrowding in local jails is expected to be reviewed by the state Senate Public Safety Committee in the next few weeks.
SB 225, introduced by Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, would mandate that any convicted felon sentenced to more than three years behind bars serve the time in state prison.
Emmerson proposed a similar measure during the 2011-12 legislative session, but it was voted down in committee.
The senator said he re-introduced the proposal Monday in response to complaints from local officials about a surge in the number of inmates being housed in county jails.
“Unfortunately, realignment was rushed through the process, and now we’re seeing the consequences as our local jails are filled to capacity,” Emmerson said.
Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011 realignment legislation, so-called “non- serious, non-violent” offenders convicted of felonies that do not stem from a sex crime are to serve their sentences in local detention facilities.
Proponents of realignment suggested that local jail sentences would be capped at three years, but that has not held true.
According to a state Senate report issued last year, realignment never spelled out a “term-based threshold” beyond which inmates, even in the “non” category, would have to be incarcerated in one of California’s 33 prisons. The result is that some convicts in local correctional facilities are serving terms in excess of 10 years.
A convicted child abuser is serving a 14-year sentence in a Riverside County detention facility.
Since the realignment law — Assembly Bill 109 — went into effect, Riverside County’s correctional system has been overloaded, with nearly 6,000 “low-level” offenders released early from local jails last year, according to the sheriff’s department.
Under a federal court decree, the sheriff is required to have a bed for each inmate; if not, he must make space for incoming prisoners. The early releases are known as “federal kickouts.”
Emmerson said California’s crime rate has been creeping higher since AB 109 was put on the books. County Supervisor Jeff Stone last week said he believed increasing crime in the county’s southern tier could be linked to the change in the law.
” I think the best way to keep our communities secure is by keeping serious criminals behind bars until it is safe for them to re-enter society, not because there’s not enough room in our jails.” Emmerson said.