Riverside County Sheriff Says Jail Overcrowding Hurting Public Safety
Sheriff's Sniff reveals just how serious is the overcrowding at county jails and what that means for public safety. Video by kmir6.comvideo
RIVERSIDE- The Riverside County Sheriff says the additions of more than 1,200 more beds to the Indio jail does little to solve the massive overcrowding in county jails.
"We are in deep trouble right now," said Sheriff Stan Sniff.
The County Board of Supervisors approved the Indio Expansion, which should be finished in five years. The county jail system books about 60,000 people, but it can handle only about 4,000 people a night. Sniff's department is already letting convicts out early and now they are facing having to release violent offenders early.
"Quite literally we are going to be releasing the best out of the worst, so to speak, because there's no capacity," said Sniff.
The county is also facing having fewer officer patrolling unincorporated areas. In the Coachella Valley, that means about two officer on duty in areas that are hot spots for crime.
The board signaled their approval of a plan to hire fifty more deputies for unincorporated areas, but it takes at least a year to recruit and train new officers.
"I need to move now in July to begin acquiring the 50 deputies," said Sniff.
Sniff told me keeping criminals locked up is most critical to public safety, but he says at times officers don't even arrest people for petty crimes, such as shop lifting, opting to just give them court dates instead because jails are too full to book the criminals.
One of the reasons for overcrowding comes from a California bill that requires the county to handle people arrested for non serious and non violent crimes, instead of the state.
But Sniff says his department could get a big boost in funding to deal with the added inmates if Governor Brown's ballot initiative passes this November. It guarantees funding to county Sheriff's Departments to help take care of the overcrowding.
"The county continues to grow and that makes an eye of a perfect storm for all of us," said Sniff.