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County Jails Fill Up Faster Than Expected

Aired 2/24/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego will have to build more jail space to accommodate the prisoners being passed down from state prisons under California’s realignment policy.

All the agencies working to handle the influx of new offenders from overflowing state prisons met this week to assess how they’re doing.

Sheriff’s Captain Billy Duke said the county jails will fill up faster than expected.

“By about mid-October of this year,” he said, “we should reach our operational capacity. Beyond that, based on today’s numbers - and those could go up or down depending on what our influx numbers look like - from that point on, we will have about a 500 bed gap.”

Duke said the County is planning to develop an extra 400 beds at the East Mesa jail, but those won’t come on line for about two years. The Sheriff hopes to have alternative custody programs, such as ankle bracelets, in place to handle the overflow.

San Diego is also working on a Community Transition Center where offenders leaving state prison can be brought as soon as they are released. Right now they are left to report to the probation department on their own. This would be a “one stop shop” where offenders could be assessed, and referred to services, such as drug treatment or job training.

Probation Chief Mack Jenkins said the recidivism rate for “post release offenders” is less than 6 percent so far, partly due to a new strategy called “flash incarcerations.” That’s sending an offender back to jail for up to ten days as soon as they fail to comply with the terms of their probation.

“When we flash somebody,” Jenkins said, “we get their attention, hold them accountable. It saves tax payer dollars.”

Approximately 60 of 1,300 new probationers who have arrived since realignment began last October have ended up back in jail for committing another crime.

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