Valley lawmakers propose bill that reduces prison overcrowding

FRESNO, Calif.

State Senator Andy Vidak and Assemblyman Jim Patterson believe the bill is crucial in reducing overcrowding in county jails. They call it a "good fix to a bad idea."

"We look at it as a patchwork to AB 109 enacted in 2011 which is handcuffing us in regards to arresting criminals and keeping them behind bars," Fresno Deputy Sheriff's Association President Eric Schmidt said.

Friday Vidak and Patterson introduced Senate Bill 957. A bill they believe if passed would send criminals sentenced to serve 10 years or more to state prison instead of county jail.

"The state of California has put into effect some realignment and some policies and judgments that really have made things worse not better and we're trying to do something about it," Patterson said.

They say when Assembly Bill 109, also known as realignment, was enacted back in 2011 certain prisoners serving long-term sentences were sent to severely overcrowded county jails--rather than state penitentiaries. Contributing to what law enforcement officials now refer to as a "revolving door". An unintended consequence putting criminals back on the street well before their time is served.

"It took an overcrowded situation in our jail and made it worse, it released people and there was no truth in sentencing because the judges couldn't get the time they were sentencing people to," Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan said.

Egan and Kings County DA Gregory Stickland support SB 957. Stickland points to the case of Randall Murray Allison who was arrested in connection to the largest drug bust in Kings County. Strickland says CHP officers found more than $2 million worth of cocaine in his car three years ago. Allison was sentenced to 28 years behind bars, but his time was later reduced because of concerns over space in the jail.

"That should never have been a consideration because 200 pounds of cocaine, that's someone who shouldn't be out in five year," Stickland said.

They are now calling for bipartisan support of the bill and hope Governor Jerry Brown will eventually sign it into law.

"The bottom line is this, if you create a major crime, you're going to do the time, but in prison," Vidak said.

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