Under a new law that went into effect Oct. 1, some convicts will now serve their sentences in local jails instead of state prisons.
The mandate has Riverside County officials strategizing on how to deal with the increased burden.
According to Chief Deputy Jerry Gutierrez, the effects of Assembly Bill 109 -- approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor in April -- are already being felt.
Under the measure, so-called "non's'' -- individuals convicted of crimes that fall into the non-violent, non-serious category and whose principal offense results in a sentence of three years or less -- are to be incarcerated in county jail to serve their time.
However, according to Gutierrez, AB 109's amendments to the penal code do not differentiate between a principal offense and enhancement or special circumstance allegations that add to the defendant's sentence. The result: felons can be sentenced to 5, 10, 20 or more years in county jail, as long as their punishment is for the same "underlying offense,'' Gutierrez said.
"Within the first week of this new law ... the Riverside County Sheriff's Department received several inmates who fall into this ('non') category,'' Gutierrez said. "One inmate was sentenced to a total of 14 years and four months county time; another was sentenced to nine years; and another was sentenced to six years. Three others were sentenced to five years each.''
To deal with the increased burden on local jails, a think-tank called the Community Corrections Partnership has been formed. It is comprised of Sheriff Stan Sniff, District Attorney Paul Zellerbach, Chief Probation Officer Alan Crogan, Public Defender Gary Windom and other representatives from the court and law enforcement communities.
The CCP's goal will be identifying how best to preserve county resources in the face of higher costs and space limitations. The group is expected to develop plans over the next several months that will be presented to the county Board of Supervisors.
AB 109 "scares and concerns me,'' Zellerbach has said, citing both the new jail requirements and changes in the management of adult parole.
The law makes monitoring and treatment of the "non's'' a province of county probation departments, instead of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.
Funding for programs aimed at preventing recidivism has been made available in the current fiscal year, but local officials remain uncertain about the future.
AB 109 was part of the governor's "realignment'' strategy to shift more state functions to localities in what proponents hailed as a move toward greater efficiency. Critics, including Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, have voiced concerns that the state will pile up additional obligations on counties without financial support.
The county is expecting to end 2011-12 about $80 million in the red. Most of that deficit will be concentrated in public safety agencies, which consume the largest share of general fund appropriations. --City News Service and Toni McAllister contributed to this report.