Early Jail Releases Have Surged Since California’s Prison Realignment

Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2014

Jesus Ysasaga had been arrested multiple times and ordered by the court to keep away from his ex-girlfriend. Two parole boards sentenced him to nearly a year in jail for stalking, drunkenness and battery.

But the Fresno County jail would not keep him.

Four times in the summer of 2012, authorities let Ysasaga go, refusing two times to even book him. The jail had no room.

Ysasaga’s attorney, Jerry Lowe, said the parade of convicted offenders being turned away from the jail was common. “It became quite a joke,” he said.

Across California, more than 13,500 inmates are being released early each month to relieve crowding in local jails–a 34% increase over the last three years. A Times investigation shows a significant shift in who is being let out of jail, how early and where.

The releases spring from an effort begun in 2011 to divert low-level offenders from crowded state prisons to local jails. The move had a cascade effect, forcing local authorities to release their least dangerous inmates to make room for more serious offenders.


State and local officials say that they are making every effort to ensure the releases pose little danger to the public, freeing those believed to be the least risky convicts, usually parole violators and those convicted of misdemeanors.

But an analysis of jail data has found that incarceration in some counties has been curtailed or virtually eliminated for a variety of misdemeanors, including parole violations, domestic violence, child abuse, drug use and driving under the influence.

In Los Angeles County, with a quarter of California’s jail population, male inmates often are released after serving as little as 10% of their sentences and female prisoners after 5%.

Fresno County logs show the jail is releasing criminals convicted of crimes that used to rate prison time: fraud, forgery and trafficking in stolen goods.


For law enforcement agents, the jailhouse revolving door is frustrating.

Leopoldo Arellano, 39, was in and out of custody at least 18 times from 2012 to 2014 for violating parole, criminal threats and at least four incidents of domestic battery, according to Los Angeles County jail logs.

San Diego County let parolee Demetrius Roberts go early 12 times; mostly for removing or tampering with his GPS tracker, which he was required to wear as a convicted sex offender.

In Stockton last year, a furor erupted over the repeated releases of Sidney DeAvila, another convicted sex offender. He had been brought to the San Joaquin County jail 11 times in 2012 and 2013 for disarming his GPS tracker, drug use and other parole violations.

He was freed nearly every time within 24 hours, even when he was brought to the jail by the state’s Fugitive Apprehension Team.

Days after being let out early in February 2013, DeAvila went to his grandmother’s house, raped and killed the 76-year-old woman, then chopped her body into pieces. He was found later that day with the woman’s jewelry around his neck.

The family is suing the state and San Joaquin County for negligence. DeAvila pleaded guilty to murder and rape last month and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), a former City Council member, said the parole system has no teeth. “It’s justice by Nerf ball,” she said. “We designed a system that doesn’t work.”

The problem stems from the huge increase in the number of state prisoners over the last four decades, spurred by increasingly harsh sentencing laws passed during the war on drugs. Felons could serve decades behind bars for repeat convictions of drug use and other nonviolent crimes.

From a relatively stable population of less than 25,000 in the 1970s, the number of state prisoners rose to a high of 174,000 in 2007.

Crowding reached dangerous levels, leading federal judges to rule in 2009 that the conditions were unconstitutional. When Gov. Jerry Brown took office in 2011, the state was under orders to cap prison counts at 110,000.

Brown’s solution, called “realignment,” shifted the responsibility for parole violators and lower-level felons to the counties, putting inmates closer to home and potentially improving their prospects for rehabilitation.

Lawmakers tried to ease the load on counties by expanding credits for good behavior and jailhouse work, cutting most sentences in half. Even with that, state officials concede, they knew jails did not have enough room.

The shift flooded county jails, many of which already were freeing convicted offenders under a melange of local court rulings, federal orders and self-imposed caps.


The number of prisoners released from county jail because of crowding has grown from an average of 9,700 a month in 2011 to over 13,500 a month today, according to state jail commission figures. In October, those records show releases surged to over 17,400.



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  • MekongDelta69

    I ‘love’ how the slimy L.A. Times phrases letting convicted thugs out of jail – “Prison Realignment.”

    • That’s the ‘new speech,’ the kind that George Orwell warned us about.

  • JackKrak

    I’m curious to know how much time someone named Paige St. John spent desperately trying to find a paroled con named John Smith for this story before finally accepting that ‘Jesus’ and ‘Leopoldo’ were going to be his (her?) only options.

    • LHathaway

      The prisoners they do profile are all about domestic abuse and sexual crimes. I just knew one of the prisoners released would commit some kind of murder, at least. Sure enough, by the end one rapes, kills, chops up, and dons the jewelry of his grandmother. The system does draw a line in the sand at times. Apparently the boundary is set at rape, murder and (whites) speaking. Anything else is just a good time that shouldn’t be judged (and likely should be celebrated). At least that’s what I’m guessing

  • This story should once again impress upon the need for whites to carry concealed at all times. Never leave home without it and we must always be prepared since the death of the Old America. A new Amerika has emerged.

    • A Freespeechzone

      True, but in California, it’s very, very difficult to secure a carry permit–the other option is to illegally carry and take your chances.

      • To each his own, but I’d take my chances. In CA it’s a misdemeanor to carry concealed. If you’re smart about where you go, whom you associate with, and actually keep the weapon fully concealed, it’s not likely that the police will ever discover you’re carrying.

        If you happen to get in a justifiable shooting while not properly licensed, the worst you’ll get is probably a slap on the wrists. If it’s a bad shooting, that’s an entirely different matter. That possibility will be lessened if you know your handgun well, practice regularly, and know well when and when not to employ it.

        Incidentally, the concealed carry restrictions (if my memory serves me correct) in the State of California have recently been eased because of so many complaints about how hard it was to get a concealed handgun license. Apparently, some gun proponents have challenged such restrictions and have won in court.

        If you look around hard enough, it’s very possible to obtain one if you have no felony convictions.

      • Don’t take your chances with illegal carry. Concealed carry must be done all the time for it to be useful, and if you do it all the time, you will eventually be caught.

  • Luca

    And Gov. Moonbeam wants to build a $7+ billion dollar bullet train that no one will use. That kind of money could easily build a dozen new prisons which are sorely needed. Or they could fund a program to outsource the prisoners to other states that have lower crime statistics. You know, those states that don’t attract illegals, worship diversity and allow open carry.

  • JohnEngelman

    During the 1960’s the prison population declined. The crime rate doubled. Since 1980 the prison population tripled. The crime rate declined by one third. I suspect that the people of California are about to learn once again the hard way that less punishment means more crime.

    The high cost of incarceration can be reduced by the thorough exploitation of prison labor, the frequent use of capital and corporal punishment, and an end to educational and recreational opportunities.

    • M.

      I could see how capital punishment and prison labor could reduce the cost of incarceration, but how would corporal punishment help?

      • JohnEngelman

        Corporal punishment would be useful in enforcing prison labor.

        • M.

          I think a couple of armed guards standing nearby would be enough.

          • JohnEngelman

            When a prison guard supervises convicts performing work that is too painful and dangerous for free labor there should be a third alternative between telling them to work harder and shooting them.

          • M.

            And the third alternative would be routine whip-like punishments to stimulate the little slaves back into work?

            Let’s keep it in the realm of reality, shall we? And I mean 21-century reality, not Ancient Egypt’s.

          • Correct, and moreover, what about the guys who will eventually be released? John’s idea might work with inmates doing life without parole, but if applied across the board in all correctional facilities, it would really just amount to turning prisons into monster-factories.

            Do you want them to go home, settle down and cut that “stuff” out, or would you like progressively more damaged individuals on the streets doing increasingly hideous things? That is the question Mr. Engelman has never attempted to answer.

          • Periapsis

            With a couple of these for good measure.

          • Puggg

            It’s not a pug, but it will do. A keeshond puppy?

    • Prison labor already exists. As a field trip, go to a surplus store and look at things like army blankets, BDU jackets, caps and the like. These are frequently marked “Unicor” and that means federal prison labor. Diesel engines for military vehicles are overhauled at some federal prisons. A few federal prison camps are actually located on military bases, and the inmates do jobs like groundskeeping and painting on these bases themselves.

      When I was in federal prison, we had to work. I first worked in the machine shop, then in the chow hall (the 4:00 AM to noon shift) and finally in groundskeeping. The last was the best because I was outside with the birds and squirrels at times the yard was closed, and it was easy: just raking leaves and picking up windblown trash. I liked the machine shop, and I was able to fix some of their broken tools, but I was the odd man out because I wasn’t Mexican. I was paid 12 cents an hour.

      Refusing to work resulted in loss of good time and an immediate trip to the hole (a.k.a. the Special Housing Unit, or SHU), which meant 23-hour lockdown and a massive restriction on commissary privileges.

      I have never been to a state prison, and doubt I ever will, but I imagine the rules are similar. One of the things state prisons have inmates doing is silk-screening signs for their state highway departments. I do not know if they still make license plates.

      Most prison inmate jobs revolve around maintaining the facilities themselves and keeping them running, so carpentry, machining, welding, custodial work like cleaning and groundskeeping, cooking, serving food, washing dishes, doing laundry (we did our own where I was), painting, and the like are all done by inmates.

      I was a conscientious worker in the chow hall and received very good reviews from the corrections officers I worked for. When one of them asked me why I did such good work for 12 cents an hour, I explained that it is always easier to do a job properly than it is to explain why one did not, and the pay is irrelevant. That was Mr. Buchberger, and he was a good guy.

      Prison labor is thus already a fact.

      If you want inmates to suffer, they already do. I missed my books, my movie collection, sleeping in a real bed, being able to drive to a store and go shopping, beer, going fishing, computer games, writing online, vegetable gardening, deciding what I was going to eat for a given meal and when I would eat it, choosing what clothes to wear, and I missed quiet. It wasn’t deliberately a terrible place, in that nobody hurt me, but it was miserable.

      I was released 11 years ago, and still have nightmares every night that I have been sent back, and nobody will tell me why.

  • IKUredux

    Oh for cripes sake. This was caused by harsh drug laws? Really? Over the last forty years? How about, it’s caused by illegal, stupid mexicans?

    • Spikeygrrl

      Yes. Really. Decriminalize minor, nonviolent drug “offenses” and watch the prison population drop like a stone. I for one will be keeping a VERY close eye on Colorado and Washington State when the numbers start to roll in.

      • Except I don’t buy this notion that a big percentage of state and Federal prison inmates are in there only for “minor, nonviolent drug offenses.”

        • Spikeygrrl

          That’s a factual matter which anyone can research, maybe even you. 🙂

          When I served a few months more than 20 years ago for multiple DUIs — I celebrated my 20-year sobriety anniversary earlier this month — only 2 inmates out of 60 on my pod were there for violent offenses. Half a dozen were in for solicitation, 1 for writing bad checks, and all the rest of us for DUI or posession of drugs in quantities too small to qualify for possession with intent to distribute.

          • “A few months”

            In a county jail or a state prison?

            “Possession of drugs not up to PWID”

            A lot of people in jail (not prison) for possession swung a plea deal. You should have asked them what other pending charges they had that were pled down and out.

          • Spikeygrrl

            Not city or county jail and not federal prison, so it would have had to be state, neh? I was 1) detoxing HARD, “cold turkey,” with no medical support and 2) just so appalled to be there in the first place, that I paid no distinction to that sort of minutiae. I just kept my head down and got through it.

            AFAIK nobody “pled down” from more serious drug charges, but there were maybe 8-10 “doing short time”: taking the blame for the activities of gang-banger boyfriends with so many prior drug offenses that one more would have meant serious time for him v. only a few months for her.

            Your point? And how is grilling ME preferable to going and looking up what the numbers are NOW? Do yer own dam’ research!

          • Prosecutors and police often overload a case with extraneous charges and then the suspect is offered a plea deal. This is called “hanging paper”.

          • Congrats on your 20th anniversary!

          • Spikeygrrl

            Thank you. What a long, strange trip it’s been.

        • IBWHITE

          If you’re sent to prison on drug charges it has to be a very large amount or the court is simply tired of dealing with you. During my time as a parole officer I often had difficulty revoking parole on inmates under my supervision who had caught new charges. I know of people who had been in front of a judge no fewer than a dozen times before they finally locked him up. And if it’s a female with a child they’re even less likely to be put away.

  • kjh64

    I’ve heard that one-third of those in many of jails and prisons are illegal aliens. Once again, if we secured our borders and didn’t have all these illegals, we’d have room. These papers never tell the truth as to why.

  • none of your business

    The Governor persuaded several major retailers such as Walgreen’s, Vons, Ralphs and other supermarkets, walmart to hire these thugs just out of jail. They are not working out. The blacks want to run things and tell management what to do their second day on the job. They are surly, refuse to follow orders and constantly call in sick on the busiest days while demanding to work on the double time holidays. They also have trouble reading the contents of the cartons they are supposed to unpack.

    Brown did fight that federal release order as long as he could but the feds prevailed

  • Mark Hillyard

    Here in the CA Mother Lode I was working for a woman and she asked, “Where are all the thieves coming from?”