California Inmate Releases over Next 2-3 Years

February 10, 2009 7:46:19 PM PST
Tens of thousands of California state prisoners will soon be released back to their homes. Instead of being slammed shut, close to 60,000 inmates may soon see their prison doors open wide. A federal appeals court has issued a tentative ruling saying California's prison population must be reduced within the next 2-3 years because of overcrowding and poor conditions.Currently there are close to 158,000 inmates in California spread across 33 prisons. If the court's ruling is finalized and an appeal is rejected, an estimated 60,000 white-collar criminals, property and identity thieves would be set free.

"A lot of these folks earned their trip to state prison," said Merced Sheriff Mark Pazin.

Pazin worries these inmates will return to their previous lives of crime.

"Is it 20%, 30%? You start to do the math real quick. Even 10% of 1,500 is 150 inmates that would be returned," said Pazin.

An estimated 2,000 inmates may return to Fresno.

The judges also set a cap on the number of inmates that could be sent off to state prison. Now that's a big concern for the Fresno County Sheriff and chief of police who say that could lead to overcrowding here at the Fresno County Jail.

"Over a three year period in the city fresno we could see increases as many as 13000 additional crimes in our city," said Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer.

ABC 30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi warned releases will continue unless the state addresses inmate health, building new prisons and overcrowding. "There are standards that have to be met and if those standards are met, that is so many prisoners for so many guards, you have to release prisoners," said Capozzi.

News of the release has upset law officials but two Fresno residents Action News spoke to say they are not worried at all.

Christina Torno said: "They're releasing them? They must not be that dangerous."

"I might have too much faith in the system! I do. I don't worry about it too much," said Elizabeth Songer from Fresno.

Still the state attorney general is worried for the public and is planning an appeal with the U. S. Supreme Court.

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