Sheriff Bill Brown blasted last week’s order by three federal judges that Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections release more than 9,000 inmates by the year’s end, terming it “a blow to public safety.” Initial estimates suggest that Santa Barbara County could take as many as 90 additional inmates as a result of this order. California’s prison system is badly overcrowded and has been under fire from the federal bench to bring its population down to 137.5 percent of capacity.
Although state authorities have released tens of thousands of inmates over the past two years as part of a controlled early release program, that has not satisfied the concern of the federal judges. They’ve accused Gov. Brown of dragging his feet and have remained especially alarmed that the treatment of mentally ill in state prisons constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The governor has appealed the order at the same time he prepared plans to comply. To date, Santa Barbara County has accepted 458 state prisoners as part of AB 109, the state’s “realignment” bill. Sheriff Brown said the order “defies common sense” and that it “exacerbates preexisting problems at the local level and endangers people throughout the state.”