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San Diego Vulnerable To LA’s Crumbling Criminal Justice System

Aired 10/3/11 on KPBS News.

This month marks the beginning of a major shift in the criminal justice system in California. San Diego County could be affected by how the change is handled by our neighbors to the north.

San Diego County has a plan to absorb 4,000 offenders who will shift from state to county oversight in the next few months. The county’s probation department is expanding to work on new policies designed to shorten jail stays and increase community supervision.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts said a good working relationship among law enforcement agencies in San Diego should make the transition easier. But he said many other counties are not handling the challenge well.

“San Diego is not an island,” he said, “We’re part of a state where many of the counties, they’re not going to be able to deal with this. There are not going to be hundreds of people that don’t belong there, there are going to be thousands of people on the streets of California that rightfully should be in jail.”

Thirty-seven of California’s 58 counties have jails that are already overcrowded.

In Los Angeles, Chief Probation Officer Donald Blevins is under pressure to leave because of a failure to reform the badly broken probation system. Employees have given him a vote of no confidence.

Meanwhile, community leaders are calling on Los Angeles' sheriff to step down after the ACLU released a damning report.

Peter Eliasberg of ACLU said Sheriff Lee Baca has failed to address systemic violence and prisoner abuse in L.A.’s County overcrowded jails.

“For decades the LA county jail has had enormous problems, “Eliasberg said, “and for decades the sheriff’s department has failed to confront those. Either he or his spokesperson literally engages in a blanket policy of denial. “

Because of its size, LA will receive about a third of the offenders being passed down to county jurisdiction by the state.

Observers are concerned that the leaders of the criminal justice system in LA are under fire, on the brink of an historic change that could threaten public safety state wide.

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