DATE: September 18, 2007
TO: Board of Supervisors
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION TO EARLY RELEASE OF CONVICTS FROM STATE PRISON
A federal court class action lawsuit against the State of California has been filed on behalf of state prisoners. This could result in the release of up to 40,000 inmates from California state prisons into our communities, posing grave challenges to public safety and to our County’s regional and local law enforcement agencies.
The safety of our residents is the number one priority of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Any release of prisoners, especially as many as 40,000 convicts, would pose a significant threat to the safety of our communities and our citizens.
To prevent the early release of these convicts, the California State Sheriffs’ Association (CSSA) and the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) are supporting an action to intervene in this lawsuit by several elected Sheriffs and District Attorneys statewide, including San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) also has joined in supporting the intervention by the Sheriffs and District Attorneys, and has offered financial assistance to the CSSA to fund the costs of the intervention.
Today’s action would indicate San Diego County's official support for the action to intervene filed by the Sheriffs and District Attorneys, and would ratify the actions on the part of the San Diego County Sheriff and District Attorney to join this intervention. In addition, it would place the County Board of Supervisors on record as opposing any attempts to release inmates from California prisons before they have fully served their time.
CHAIRMAN RON ROBERTS AND VICE CHAIRMAN SUPERVISOR GREG COX:
- Support and ratify the action by the San Diego County Sheriff and District Attorney to intervene in the federal class action prisoner lawsuit filed against the State of California to oppose the lawsuit's attempt to force the early release of inmates from California prisons.
- Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to express this Board of Supervisors’ opposition to any early release of state inmates to San Diego County’s legislative representative in Sacramento and to state the Board’s position to the California State Association of Counties.
The estimated cost of litigation will be a minimum of $100,000 but there will be no direct financial impact as the legal costs are expected to be shared by various associations of governments.
Under the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), a three-judge panel can issue a prisoner release order to reduce or limit prison population. The Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has appointed a panel consisting of Judge Stephen Reinhardt, Judge Lawrence K. Karlton and Judge Thelton E. Henderson.
Plaintiffs in two federal class action lawsuits are attempting to convince the panel to stop all admissions to state prisons, until the population is down to standards acceptable to the court, and to immediately release up to 40,000 inmates.
The Governor and Attorney General have asked the Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and Chief Probation Officers to intervene as parties so that their voices will be heard by the court as to the direct and, potentially, devastating impacts such actions will have on the state.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender is part of an action to intervened supported by the CSSA, and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced on Aug. 16 that she was joining 14 other district attorneys throughout California in a lawsuit to prevent the early release of convicts from state prison.
In addition, the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) is joining a coalition of local government interests, including the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the California District Attorneys Association, the Chief Probation Officers of California and the California Police Chiefs Association, to support an action to intervene in the lawsuits.
We believe the panel of federal judges also needs to hear from counties to understand the actual impact of the release of up to 40,000 inmates on California and its communities. Protecting the public’s safety has long been identified as a top priority for the County of San Diego and we urge your support on this matter.