Stanislaus County inmates set fires to get released by Christmas

7:49 PM, Nov 20, 2012   |    comments
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Crews respond to Honor Farm Detention Facility after getting reports of a fire (Photo Courtesy of Central Valley TV)

STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. - On Saturday fire crews had to put out a fire in an Honor Farm barracks; on Monday, fire crews were back at the same place.

Inmates told the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department they set the fires because they think it will get them released sooner, in time for Christmas. Sheriff Adam Christianson blames the ill-conceived plan on prison realignment: the state's plan to house non-violent, non-serious offenders in county jails, instead of state prisons.

"We can't violate a court-ordered federal consent decree that caps our population based on facility capacity," Christianson said. "It results in early release and the inmates know it. And they have it in their mind that if they burn down a barracks, we'll suddenly trigger the release of 100-plus inmates."

The damage is minor and all inmates are back in the same housing. Despite the staff's best efforts, Christianson said contraband still makes its way in, which is how the fires were set.

"They also get lighters into the facility, so there are plenty of flammable materials that we provide them: bedding, paper items, toiletries, whatever it is."

There are 86 inmates living inside the barracks that were set on fire, but Christianson said he doesn't believe all are involved. To be on the safe side, he said the Honor Farm will do its own realignment, though, on the inside.  

"We're probably not going to be able to prosecute anyone, but we can certainly adjust our housing, tactic supervision, and we'll make those adjustments to keep them on their toes," Christianson explained.

But will they get their holiday wish and be home in time for Christmas?

"No, they are not going to go home for Christmas."


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