Report: California budget constraints cause San Diego prison populations to balloon

Local inmate population is 113 percent of capacity

SAN DIEGO - The jail population has swelled in San Diego County since prison realignment was instituted statewide three years ago, adding to the strain of area law enforcement, according to a study released Friday by the San Diego Association of Governments.

While the number of annual bookings into local detention centers has dropped in recent years, the average daily inmate population ballooned from 102 percent of overall jail capacity in 2011 to 113 percent in 2012, according to the study.

The most overcrowded was the women's jail in Santee, which was at 174 percent of capacity. An expanded facility is under construction adjacent to the current facility.

Only the San Diego Central Jail and Vista Detention Facility—out of the county's seven jailhouses—were under capacity in 2012.

The realignment was brought about by state budget constraints and federal court orders to reduce overcrowding in California's prisons. It required some convicts who would ordinarily be sentenced to state prison to instead serve local time, and for local probation authorities to supervise former inmates who have served their time.

Local law enforcement officials attribute the policy to a crime rate increase.

"Public safety realignment has put an enormous strain on local law enforcement, in particular the Sheriff' Department and the county Probation Department," said Cynthia Burke, SANDAG's director of criminal justice research.

The percentage of jailhouse inmates who would have been in state prison under the old system, but are serving local time now, has risen from 11 percent in 2011 to 35 percent last year, according to Burke.

She also said the portion of maximum-security prisoners, those who have committed assaults or been deemed to be either a behavioral or escape risk, increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2012.

Burke lauded area law enforcement for "devising innovative programs and strategies" that help realigned offenders reenter society.

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