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Plan would localize prison system

May 21, 2008|Michael Rothfeld | Times Staff Writer

Under the draft settlement, those who would serve less than a year in prison would be diverted to local punishment or community programs. Pacheco said many of those have been convicted of multiple felonies.

"Those guys are bad," he said. "They need to be housed away from us, and they need to be sent to state prison and segregated."

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the Senate's Public Safety Committee, said she was encouraged by the proposed settlement, but she also wondered what kind of cooperation local communities would offer.

In her district, she said, there has been controversy as Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has attempted to reopen the Sybil Brand Institute for Women, once a county jail.

"We've seen in other parts of the state, 'Oh yeah, get 'em out of prison, but not in my backyard,' " Romero said. "The devil is in the details."

Petersilia said that one option is opening so-called day reporting centers, where offenders go every day during working hours for education and to look for jobs.

There are two in California, but some communities have refused to allow them.

California Court of Appeal Justice Peter Siggins, one of the mediators in the negotiations, called it "a process of education" for local residents and officials.

"The people we're talking about are people that are going back into their communities every day," he said. "The question is, how do you make it safer to go back into their communities every day?"


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