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Early Inmate Releases Blocked Up North

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Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 4:51 PM

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A Sacramento judge put a temporary halt to county jail inmate releases in the state capital Wednesday, ruling that a state parole-reform law that would see thousands of state prisoners go free does not apply to a county system.

It's not clear if the ruling will have an effect on Southern California county inmate releases. The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 300 inmates have been released from Orange County Jail under the state law that went into effect in January. Did L.A. County release any inmates under the state rule? We don't know.

In Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren E. McMaster granted a temporary restraining order against the early county jail releases, calling it a "formula for disaster" in the wake of 122 local-deputy layoffs since August, according to the Sacramento Bee.

About 200 inmates had been released in Sacramento, and one of them was arrested on suspicion of rape within 13 hours of gaining freedom.

The counties that have released inmates under the state plan, which calls for some convicts that are not serious, violent or sexual offenders to be eligible for early freedom, consulted with lawyers who had told them they believed the counties had to abide by a rule intended for state prisoners.

Experts have said the state plan would pare 6,500 inmates from state prisons -- a move that would also save California much-needed cash. The Sacramento judge, however, wasn't buying it:

"Public safety is compromised by releasing county jail inmates into (the) community when they have not completed their sentence," McMaster wrote in his ruling.

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