Riverside County jails break record of 6,001 inmates released early

Riverside County jails have released a record number of inmates early this year and prepared Wednesday to send more inmates out the door early.

So far this year, 6,183 inmates have been released early countywide due to overcrowding. That surpasses the county record for most inmates ever released in one year — 6,001 inmates in 2007.

“It’s not something we brag about,” Chief Deputy Raymond Gregory told my colleague Erica Felci. “It shows the mass of this huge crisis.”

There are 3,906 beds countywide.

All 353 beds at the jail in Indio were filled this morning, and Gregory was working on a plan late Wednesday morning about which inmates would be released early if the jail is overcrowded tonight.

“It kind of shows that we don’t nearly have the correct size for the activity we have in Riverside County,” said Gregory, who oversees jails for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

The Supreme Court has given the state until June 2013 to reduce its prison population by about 33,000 inmates. The state has warned it does not expect to meet that deadline.

To make matters worse, the already overcrowded county jails now must house most felons — except for those jailed for a serious, sex or violent crime — who previously would have been sent to state prison.

The state Legislature handed that responsibility to counties last year as part of a broader state budget plan to close a $26.6 billion gap.

Sheriff Stan Sniff has repeatedly warned that Riverside County jails, like many across the state, would be “overwhelmed” by the burden of housing felons.

“The system is so overloaded. We’re not close. We’re way, way, behind. That’s what’s added to our misery, when you’re seeing some terrible surges in crime,” Sniff previously told us.


Related story: Gov. Jerry Brown has also battled a federal court order to lay out a timetable for reducing the nation’s worst prison overcrowding. See more here.