Judge: County inmates in California can be freed early
Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A state lawmaker sought Friday to exempt county jails from a new law designed to ease prison crowding, hours after a county judge ruled the law requires sheriffs to free inmates before they serve their full sentences.
More than 1,500 inmates have been released from county jails statewide since the new law took effect Jan. 25. It lets inmates reduce their sentences by up to half through good-behavior credits.
Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, filed amendments to apply the law only to state prison inmates.
“There’s some chaos out there,” Torrico said. “I can’t imagine anyone is going to oppose this. We’re talking about public safety.”
Torrico, who is running for attorney general, helped write the law. He said in a sworn statement last week that it was never intended to affect local jails.
He joined a lawsuit filed by the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association after a county inmate was arrested on suspicion of attempted rape shortly after his release.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster said “it is a formula for disaster” to release jail inmates early at the same time the county lays off deputies to save money. However, his four-page ruling Friday said the law applies to inmates no matter if they are in jails or prisons.
McMaster said he erred when he temporarily blocked the releases 10 days ago. An Orange County judge on Thursday declined to block releases there under a similar lawsuit.
Det. Bill Miller, vice president of the Sacramento deputies’ union, said there is little hope McMaster will change his mind during a further hearing set for March 3.
“I’m afraid there’s not a next step, except we’re waiting for the legislation to get it changed,” Miller said.
Crime Victims United of California filed suit in Placer County this week, arguing the early release law endangers the public and violates a victims’ bill of rights ballot measure approved by voters in 2008.