SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CA - Approximately 500 jail inmates in Sacramento County are being released early due to changes in time credits allowed for good behavior and work, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
The changes come after a penal code was re-written as a cost-saving measure, said Gordon Hinkle with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Statewide, prison inmates will receive different types of parole, or no parole at all under the new code, according to Hinkle. He said the changes will allow parole agents to focus more time on more violent offenders and will keep offenders with parole violations out of jail.
The changes also affect how good behavior credits are factored into a county jail inmate' sentence. The new system will change to a one-half program which means for every day an inmate behaves he or she gets one day taken off their sentence, according to Sheriff John McGinness.
In the next 24 hours, up to 150 inmates could be released early, according to McGinness. By the end of the week that number is expected to reach 500.
All of the inmates considered for early release are non-violent offenders. Most are housed at the Rios Cosumnes Correctional Center in the south county.
"Are there people who are not serving the sentence to which they were originally convicted? Yes," said McGinness. "But you're talking about a fairly negligible difference. You're talking about historically somebody who was sentenced to a year in the county jail and would have done eight months. Now they're going to do six months."
McGinness said the changes may save California money, but not the county. He said unless the jail population is reduced enough to close a facility, only minor cost savings will be seen.
"Honestly, I'm not thrilled with the idea of (early release). When somebody is convicted and sentenced to a time to be served for certain kinds of behavior, I think it's in our society's best interest to have that be the case," McGinness said. "However, the reality being what it is, I think people in the state of California should be prepared for a lot more of this."
The penal code changes went into effect Jan. 25. Hinkle said the state did not mandate how counties interpreted the change nor how inmates would be released.
McGinness said in Sacramento County, the decision was made to be retroactive.
"After meeting with the district attorney's office, the public defender's office, county counsel and counsel for the Sheriff's Association, clearly the counsel said we were best to apply it retroactively so we don't find ourselves in a position where we suffer adverse litigation for holding people after the time to which they're sentenced," McGinness said.
The good behavior modifications affect every county statewide.
Tuesday evening, several released inmates waited outside Sacramento County Jail in Downtown waiting for a ride home. Rafael Ferreria, who had served time for a parole violation, was supposed to get out February fourth. He got out two days early.
"They called me from the speaker--my last name. Get out. I was happy," said Ferreria. "I'm happy I'm seeing my babies--my little girl. I've got two little kids."
Henry Perez of Galt was released four days early. His 32-day jail sentence was for a traffic violation.
"(It was because) I had a truck. I took all the kids to the swimming pool. One of them was not in a seatbelt," said Perez. "It was a traffic ticket. I don't think you should have to go to jail for a traffic ticket."
Meanwhile, Christine Ward of Crime Victims Action Alliance said releasing non-violent offenders still poses some concern for the community.
"It is a risk to public safety. Or it could be a risk to public safety and we encourage people to take steps to make sure their homes are secure." said Ward "People are in custody or jail for a reason. They committed an offense that deserved that punishment."