That’s the story on those being released from state prisons to local jails as a result of a federal court ruling, but, as with all things, the devil is really in the details, noted in this story from the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Gov. Jerry Brown and others who supported the dramatic shift in California's sentencing law that took effect this week have said it will send only those convicted of nonviolent or non-serious crimes to county jails instead of state prison, a change designed to save the state money and reduce inmate crowding.
“Yet a review by The Associated Press of crimes that qualify for local sentences shows at least two dozen offenses shifting to local control that can be considered serious or violent.
“Among them: Involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, killing or injuring a police officer while resisting arrest, participating in a lynching, possession of weapons of mass destruction, possessing explosives, threatening a witness or juror, and using arson or explosives to terrorize a health facility or church. Assault, battery, statutory rape and sexual exploitation by doctors or psychotherapists are also covered by the prison realignment law and carry sentences that will be served in a county jail instead of state prison.
"These crimes include a variety of offenses that would strike many civilians as far from trivial," Public Policy Institute of California researcher Dean Misczynski wrote in a recent analysis of the new law.
“A list of 500 criminal code sections to be covered by the law was compiled by the California District Attorneys Association and posted late last month to its website. In response to a request by the AP, the state attorney general's office confirmed the association's review was accurate but said defendants with a previous felony conviction or those charged with enhancements would still be sent to state prison.
“Among those who could be affected by the new law if convicted is Dr. Conrad Murray, who is on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. Legal experts said he would serve his maximum four-year sentence in a Los Angeles County jail instead of state prison.
“The length of sentences won't necessarily change, but the realignment law does offer significant differences for inmates.
“Parole will disappear for offenders who serve their terms in county jails, including Murray, if he is convicted. Offenders who serve their full sentences behind bars will not be supervised once they are released. Parole officers will not be tracking their movements or making sure they comply with conditions such as substance abuse treatment.
“Judges also have the discretion to impose "hybrid" or "split sentences" in which offenders serve part of their sentence in county jail and the rest on what is being called "mandatory supervision," overseen by probation officers.
“Offenders convicted of more significant crimes still are likely get lengthier sentences, even if they are served in jail instead of prison, said Scott Thorpe, chief executive officer of the state district attorneys association. But sentencing more serious offenders to jail rather than state prison will likely force counties that already have crowded jails to release less serious offenders who are serving time for crimes such as auto theft, burglary, grand theft, forgery, counterfeiting and drug crimes.”