The county will gain 528 inmate beds by transfering 528 of the “low-risk” prisoners it got from the state to the county’s five fire camps, if the Board of Supervisors approves a proposal Tuesday from Sheriff Lee Baca and county CAO William Fujioka.
Inmates serve on fire-fighting camp crews and earn double-time credit for doing it. Two of the five camps are local – one is in San Francisquito Canyon and another is in Acton.
“Since the early 1980s, the five local fire camps have been jointly managed by (the California Department of Corrections) and the Consolidated Fire Protection District of Los Angeles County,” according to a report from Fujioka and Baca. “(Corrections) supplies the state inmate workforce and onsite security, while Fire supervises the inmates working on fire crews.”
The state has been hurting for inmates for fire camp crews since AB109 shifted certain prisoner oversight to counties. Fujioka and Baca’s proposal could help overcome that problem in L.A. County.
These days, the prisoners who would have been sent by CAL FIRE to fight fires are in the county jails, which are bursting at the seams.
“In less than two years, AB109 has resulted in an average daily (L.A. County) jail population increase from 15,400 to the current average of 18,500 inmates,” according to Fujioka and Baca.
Moreover, “the jails were not designed for the long-term housing of inmates,” they said. Normally the jails are filled with inmates who are in the midst of the trial process or awaiting sentence to state prison; very few are traditional county inmates sentenced to 12 months or less. Since AB109, however, 32 percent of the average daily population consists of long-term state prisoners who’ve been sentenced to an average of 24 months, and in one case 42 years. This new population “has and will continue to place additional demands on the Sheriff’s already stressed jail population management operations,” Fujioka and Baca said.
They’re asking the supervisors to approve an agreement whereby 528 of these state prisoners would be transferred back to the control of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and placed at the county’s fire camps.
It’s cheaper to house them there, according to the report. The daily fire camp bed rate, as established by the state, is just $46.19, versus $118.32 per day in the county jails.
So Fujioka and Baca are saying it’s not only a space saver and fire-fighting helper but a money saver, as well.
The inmate transfers would be phased in over three years; the three-year contract cost between the county and state Department of Corrections would be $20.2 million. That doesn’t count the actual operation of the fire camps and deployment of inmate camp crews; those are covered under separate contract between the Consolidated Fire Protection District and state corrections.