January 12, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Early release possible for those awaiting trial in Los Angeles County
In 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown implemented a statewide public safety "realignment" of certain prisoners to relieve the pressure on the overflowing state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. However, that shifted the burden to county jails to house these non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual offenders. Now that county jails are nearly overflowing, counties are looking for ways to relieve the pressure, even though it means releasing some prisoners while they await trial.
As of October 2012, the Los Angeles California County jail housed approximately 18,900 inmates, using nearly 90 percent of the jail's total capacity. Officials estimate that the realignment program increased the county jail's inmate population by 6,000 and placed additional stress on county resources. Of the 18,900 inmates, about 10,000 were awaiting trial in October. Unfortunately, many inmates are in custody longer due to budget cuts slowing down the court system.
To help relieve pressure, L.A. County is considering a program that would allow for the pretrial release of low-level offenders charged with non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual crimes. Crimes such as drug possession, petty theft and DUI certainly fall within that category. The release could be on one's own recognizance or could include provisions such as GPS electronic monitoring, or regular check-ins with probation, work release programs or treatment facilities.
While many have concerns over releasing accused criminals, only non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual offenders would be released. Most importantly, the program's safeguard is a mandatory risk-assessment tool a judge will review before deciding whether or not to approve release. Similar programs have proven successful in New York, Washington D.C., and Santa Cruz.
Confident in its value, County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka said, "This program will reduce pre-trial detention, ensure that defendants appear in court and maintain public safety."
Mr. Fujioka said the courts estimate that around 1,000 people would qualify for the new program each year. The current plan is to do risk assessments on five to 10 inmates a day between November 2012 and January 2013. They will be released so long as the inmate meets the criteria and a judge feels comfortable releasing them into the community.
This new program could have a dramatic impact on those jailed while awaiting trial on DUI charges. It seems reasonable that first time offenders would successfully pass a risk assessment and be approved for release. Repeat DUI offenders may still qualify, but any judge would feel pressed to deny the release of a person who might repeat the crime for which they were being held. This is especially true for DUIs that can result in serious accidents and victims -- and bring about the kind of publicity no judge wants.
When a non-violent defendant is released pending trial, everyone wins. The inmate regains his or her freedom and taxpayers are relieved of paying for the person's incarceration. Hopefully the program will prove successful and keep those who are innocent until proven guilty from losing one of their most valuable possessions -- their liberty.
Article provided by Law Offices of Paul E. Antill
Visit us at http://www.scalduiattorney.com---
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