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L.A. County supervisors express concerns over state prison ruling

October 15, 2013|By Seema Mehta
  • L.A. County probation chief Jerry Powers, center, at a Board of Supervisors meeting in August 2013, says the county does not have the money or staff to supervise prisoners released by the state because of overcrowding.
L.A. County probation chief Jerry Powers, center, at a Board of Supervisors… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles County officials were alarmed by Tuesday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear Gov. Jerry Brown’s appeal of court-ordered prison crowding caps, fearing that if the state is forced to release prisoners early, the county’s ability to monitor them would be strained and public safety would be jeopardized.

State officials have said they have no intention of releasing prisoners early and are working to transfer inmates to private prisons or find other solutions.

County probation chief Jerry Powers said Tuesday that though he didn’t believe California would be forced to release prisoners early, under the worst case scenario, 1,000 to 1,200 could be released to Los Angeles County. 

He said that state officials have assured the county that if it had to release prisoners early, they would not be placed under the supervision of the county probation department but would be on state parole.

Powers said he appreciated that assurance but was concerned that within a few months, the prisoners would be transitioned to county probation, an increase in population that has not been planned for.

“We’re certainly not on board with that,” he said.  “We’re flying by the seat of our pants, and we’re building the plane as we fly it. And we can’t take any more passengers in that plane to keep it in the air.”

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky questioned how the county would pay for additional supervision costs. Local governments did see new funding when the state passed legislation allowing some prisoners convicted of felonies to serve their time in county jails rather than state prisons, but that funding did not account for early releases from state prisons.

Yaroslavsky said local governments across California should have fought the state harder.

“The message that has come across to the state administration is that local government will take it, just take it in the teeth if they have to,” he said.


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