The Board of Supervisors, still faced with the thorny issue of inmate overcrowding, ordered a sweeping study of how best to save money in operating the county's jail system.
Projections that annual costs for operating the jail system may triple from $32.3 million to $97.4 million by the year 2000 prompted the new economy drive.
Taking pains to avoid the appearance of a power struggle with Sheriff Brad Gates, who recently won reelection to a fourth term with 64% of the vote, the supervisors nonetheless decided to look into the possibility of replacing sheriff's deputies at the jail with lower-salaried correctional officers.
The board, in another cost-cutting move, also requested development of a video-camera arrangement that would allow inmates to be arraigned and enter pleas without leaving the jail.
Board Chairman Ralph B. Clark said the proposals to economize and streamline jail operations "contain no quick fixes. They will not empty our County Jail" or stop construction of a new jail. But "they will save the county funds while continuing to protect the public from criminals," he observed.
Savings aside, the supervisors did address the overcrowding problem with a flurry of suggestions, including at-home incarcerations, expansion of a parole program and a doubling of capacity at a halfway house. The board also agreed to investigate the idea of a sobering-up station or detoxification center for public drunks, who are no longer accepted at the County Jail.
The county, which is under federal court orders to limit the jail's population, still managed to find itself battered from several different sides during the week.
The Assembly Ways and Means Committee passed legislation containing a controversial amendment that would block construction of a new county jail in Anaheim near Disneyland.
Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove), who wrote the amendment, accused the Board of Supervisors of having made a "back-room deal" to force a new jail on Anaheim.
And at almost the same time, Santa Ana officials were considering what to do to overcome Sheriff Gates' decision that the jail will no longer accept people arrested for public drunkenness, prostitution, drug use and various misdemeanor crimes.
Among the options available, city officials said, was a "friendly lawsuit" intended to get Gates to once again take misdemeanor inmates. Or, they said, they could just continue doing what they have--leaving the drunks somewhere in public to sleep it off.