Less beds for female inmates


California county jails are seeing the impact of the state’s realignment plan through its jail doors – more men and women are walking through them.

The largest impact has, of course, been men.

The plan has sent several convicts that would have ended up in state prison – or under the auspices of parole officers – to county jails and probation officers. Nearly 90 percent of the added load has been men.

Yet Orange County’s women’s jails have also been severely affected. Sections of the county’s jails that could be used for women are being used to house the increase of men being arrested for new charges, probation violations, or flash incarcerations – 10-day stints used for those not abiding by the terms of their release.

Earlier this month, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department found their women’s ward so crowded they asked neighboring agencies not to send more women to county lockup – unless they were violent arrests.

State prison move puts O.C. jail near capacity for women

With limited space in county jails, the Sheriff’s Department asked local police to only send women arrested on suspicion of violent crimes.

Originally published June 5, 2013



SANTA ANA – Officials have asked police departments to keep female inmates in city lockups instead of sending them to county jail – underscoring the crowding that has occurred as more convicts are shifted from state prisons to county facilities.

The women’s sections of Orange County jails were nearly at full capacity this past weekend when the Orange County Sheriff’s Department asked that only violent female offenders be admitted, officials said.

Jailers said that not quite all the beds in the female wards were occupied last weekend. However, county jails continue to be near capacity on busy weekends. Sheriff’s officials worry about busy holiday weekends when their bookings and arrests spike.

“The reality is we’re most definitely cramped,” said Cmdr. Steve Kea of the Sheriff’s Department.

Kea said the number of inmates could spike again in July, when another phase of the state’s “realignment” plan goes into effect.

As of midnight Sunday, the department had 19 beds available at its Intake Release Center in Santa Ana, where inmates are booked, Kea said. Twelve beds were open at the Women’s Central Jail next door and 23 in the James A. Musick facility, a minimum-security jail in Irvine.

Sheriff’s officials said inmates could have been moved internally to make more space available. Weekend bookings tend to boost the jail population because many inmates are not bailed out or released until they see a judge Monday, Kea said.

“It’s a daily, hour-by-hour housing assessment,” Kea said. “It’s a constantly shifting and moving thing.”

Most local police departments have cells to hold suspects for short periods of time and then transfer them to county facilities for processing.

City jails rarely full

In Anaheim, for example, there is room for more than 100 suspects, said Sgt. Bob Dunn of the Anaheim Police Department.

With the exception of Santa Ana, larger cities in Orange County have holding facilities but are limited in how long they can keep an arrestee before booking him or her in county jail.

Reaching capacity in the city facilities, however, is rare, said Sgt. Fred Lopez of the Orange Police Department.

In 19 years, Lopez said he’s never seen his department’s holding cells completely filled.

By Monday, county law enforcement officials said the jails were cramped, but back to normal.

“We’re most definitely tight in our female beds right now,” Kea said.

During the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the Sheriff’s Department asked police departments to hold male and female suspects because of limited space. Kea said the department kept a close eye on the situation during the Memorial Day holiday.

Weekends continue to be a Rubik’s cube for the department as it shifts inmates within the department to make space for new arrestees. Though males make up the overwhelming majority of arrests, female quarters continue to be affected and crowded because some of the women’s space has been shifted to accommodate men.

As of Tuesday morning, there were a total of 6,771 inmates in county jails, including 926 women.

In early 2011, sheriff’s officials reported having plenty of bed space in county jails, but authorities said that quickly changed by October 2011, when the state initiated a prison realignment plan that shifted the housing and monitoring of thousands of convicts from state prisons to county jails.

ICE contract at risk

Since the plan went into effect, 1,000 to 1,100 inmates are in Orange County facilities as a result of realignment – they are inmates would have previously gone to state prisons or been the responsibility of the state’s parole board.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department had at one point closed down the Women’s Central Jail in Santa Ana and a 350-bed barracks in Musick jail to save money. Those facilities are now fully operational but jail officials continually shuffle inmates to make room.

At stake is a $30 million contract the department has with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees – an agreement the department has used to fill budgetary shortfalls. The county has had a contract with ICE officials since 2009, and currently rents about 800 beds to federal officials. Those spaces are being filled by former state prisoners.

The population in the county’s five jails has steadily increased since October 2011, and sheriff’s officials have also been looking at alternatives, including home confinement and GPS monitoring.

In July, parole hearings will begin to be heard in county court instead of at a state parole board. Those convicts who are found to have violated the terms of their release could be held in county jail for up to 90 days, he said, increasing the jail population further.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is in the early stages of a $100 million expansion of the Musick jail in Irvine, which would add 512 beds. The project is still in the planning phase.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3788 or shernandez@ocregister.com


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