Los Angeles, CA In an Audit of the County Sheriff's Department dated December 2009, L.A. County Auditor-Controller Wendy L. Watanabe's office found that 348 Sheriff deputies worked more than 900 hours of overtime between March 2007 and February 2008. This would equal an extra six months of full-time work. Sheriff Baca's management style has come under scrutiny for excessive overtime and 60 bonus payments that were unsubstantiated. The audit found that over the last five years, the department had exceeded its overtime budget by an average of 104 percent for each year.
WHO IS IN CHARGE?
On Thursday March 5, 2010 the L.A. Times reported that out of the anticipated 1,100 L A County Jail inmates to be released, 200 had been early released that week and "Baca said he had not been informed about the releases" and "I left it up to my Chiefs to decide" and as reported that Baca said his staff moved forward without consulting him. According to Alexander Kim, LASD Chief of the division in charge of releases "his staff had been discussing the possibility of early releases for some time and had decided to move forward without consulting Baca."
OVERTIME & BONUS COSTS vs RELEASING INMATES.
So in response to the acellerating pressure of the fiscal crisis, The Sheriff'f staff released 200 inmates with 900 more to go soon, all serving only 50% of their sentences, to help with the budget Those released had been serving time for such offenses as forgery, petty theft, identity theft, drunk driving and drug and substance abuse related crimes. In an interview on Public Radio Baca declined to speculate on whether the early release of convicted criminals would increase crime.“I don’t know if I can fully answer whether it will or not," Baca said. "I don’t think it will. Watch 7 min video debate on Early Releases featuring high ranking L A Sheriff's Officials.
CRISIS IN LOS ANGELES? NOT PREPARED FOR 8000 PLUS CONVICTS
L A County Probation Commissioner Gabriella Holt who also serves on the Los Angeles Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee provided the following reaction to this week's developments. "The compound effect of the state's early release of un-supervised criminal offenders with the additionally released county prisoners, places an additional 200 non violent offenders on Los Angeles County streets swelling the early released criminal population to nearly 8000 countywide with another 900 to be released soon. The impact to pubic safety at this time is unknown. Add in the downsizing of sheriff's on patrol and decrease in overtime, Los Angelenos will be inordinately vulnerable to increased crime and be placed in public safety peril of unknown magnitude.
"Citizens need to be aware of this increased potential for crime and take extra measures, and precautions, to protect themselves, their families, their homes and their businesses." According to Commissioner Holt, there was no notice or preparation to the county prior to release of the 200 L.A. County Jail inmates this week."
WARNING: CRIME TO INCREASE WITH REPEAT OFFENDERS
Steve Ipsen, President of the L.A. County Deputy District Attorney's Association told Full Disclosure that "Early Inmate Release goes completely against the ruling of the voters in California when they approved a Constitutional Amendment enacted in 2008 . Known as Marcy's Law , it prohibits early releases to protect the public and to deter criminal behavior. Early releases create more expense not less, when considering the cost for law enforcement, jails, courts and police who are faced with repeat offenders and who must be re-processed," He pointed out that "The County Board of Supervisors funds the county jail system as a constitutional right to victims to make certain that early releases do not occur. (Article1 Section 28)," he said." Watch 8 min Video on Politics & Prisoner Releases featuring Steve Ipsen.
EARLY RELEASES TO SAVE $26 MILLION
According to Steve Whitmore, Media Advisor to Sheriff Leroy Baca the Department expects to save approximately $26 million dollars by early releasing some 1,100 convicted criminals. He says "the figure is based on the assumption that each of them who are housed in the North Facility, L. A. County jail dormitories are costing approximately $82 each per day".
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS CRY FOUL AT SHERIFF'S PLAN
In reaction, Ipsen said "What the citizens of L A County know well is that the cost and the damage these criminals will do is far more than $82 per day and the cost to the justice system is far greater to the Police Department and the Court system to gain a conviction only to face early releases again. This is the beginning of the catch and release process that encourages criminals to commit crimes because there is no punishment."
POLITICAL PRISONER FINE & HIPOCRISY OF EARLY RELEASE POLICY
When Full Disclosure asked Steve Whitmore how much it was costing the Department to hold 70 yr old attorney Richard I. Fine in solitary "Coercive Confinement for civil contempt of court for this past year, 368 days, his response was that we should use the same figure to compute the total cost. $82 per day for 365 days equals $30,000. But the prisoners being released were staying in dormitories, not a solitary cell, so this could be easily be disputed.
Even though Fine has never been convicted of a crime, nor had a jury trial, he is always accompanied to the showers to the visitors area and to the infirmary, everywhere, by Sheriff's personnel at all times. and this costs the County money. Being a senior citizen, he has experienced health problems visiting the jail infirmary and dental clinics numerous times during the year. He has been treated for swelling in the legs and feet, infections, skin rash and "jail house" fungus, high blood pressure, tooth abscesses and upper denture replacement. If and when Fine is finally released, cost to the county could possibly match the entire savings gained by early release of the 1,100 convicted inmates.
AT GREAT COST TO COUNTY SHERIFF BACA CONTINUES TO HOLD RICHARD FINE
Could it be that Sheriff Baca has overlooked the need for "Risk Management". Mr. Fine has continually raised the issue in his complaints to the Sheriff and the courts that he is being held unlawfully by the Sheriff. The Sheriff has refused to respond to Mr. Fine's Writ of Habeas Corpus even though the U. S. District Court ordered him to do so as the Respondent. T
U S SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT IN WILLIAM FARR (L.A.Times Case)
In light of the U.S Supreme Court precedent (In Re Farr, 1974) that held no person should be held in "coercive confinement" for civil contempt of court more than five days and Fine is now starting into his second year. The only reason Mr. Fine is in the County jail is that he attempted to disqualify Superior Court Judge David Yaffe for having taking illegal payments from the L A County who was a party to the case involved. This has to be and should be a concern for the Sheriff, there is a likelihood for extensive litigation once Mr. Fine is free. The Sheriff and the County will have to explain why they ignored the U.S. Supreme Court precedent cases and have held him for more than a year without a conviction.