Senator Bill Emmerson (R – Hemet) announced today that Senate Bill 1441 died in Senate Public Safety Committee on a party line vote. SB 1441 was an important public safety measure that would ensure that serious felons who have lengthy sentences must serve their time in our state prisons rather than county jails.
“Clearly, realignment wasn’t fully vetted before it took effect last October and continues to create problems for local law enforcement,” Senator Emmerson said. “Prisons may be overcrowded but our local jails were not built or equipped to house long term offenders and are dealing with overcrowding issues of their own.”
Realignment was enacted partially in response to a federal court order that required California to reduce the prison population by 33,000 prisoners. However, the Governor’s realignment plan shifts an estimated 40% more prisoners than was required by the court order. The prisoners being shifted to local jails are considered “low-level”, even though they may have committed multiple crimes and have lengthy sentences. In other words, they are convicted felons who do not have prior convictions for sex offenses or other serious or violent crimes.
Specifically, SB 1441 will require felons who receive a sentence of over three years to serve out their time in state prisons. The California Department of Corrections has estimated that this bill would only increase the state prison population by roughly 7,000 individuals annually, which would not be in violation of the court order. It is merely a five percent population increase. In contrast, realignment is exacerbating overcrowding in our jail system where approximately 32 counties are faced with overcrowding or court-imposed caps on jail populations.
“My legislation would have a minimal impact on the prison population,” stated Senator Emmerson. “However, shifting these prisoners to county jails will put a huge strain on their limited bed space and will lead to releasing individuals early and jeopardizing public safety.”