CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

LA Prison Systems are in a State of Crisis

From A Times investigation has found that thieves, drug offenders and other repeat criminals are cycling in and out of jail faster than ever.

Since 2000, the number of people booked two or more times into jails in Los Angeles County in a single year has jumped 73%, reaching 61,646 last year, according to a Times analysis. Repeat offenders now account for 42% of bookings, up from 26% in 2000.

Once booked, defendants enter a justice system whose resources have not kept pace with demand, even as crime has dropped in recent years.

There are not enough prosecutors to try them. There are not enough courts to sentence them. There are not enough jail or prison beds to house them. And there is not enough treatment to help them.

Instead, repeat offenders drain limited justice resources and are quickly back on the streets to get arrested again, taking up the time of police, prosecutors, public defenders and judges. Patrol cops are frustrated. Victims feel forgotten.

"Under any other definition of crisis, this would be an emergency," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who runs the nation's largest network of jails. "The system is collapsing because of its volume." A solution, top law enforcement officials say, would require far more money than lawmakers have been willing to commit.

"We didn't cure malaria until we started draining the swamps instead of just swatting at the mosquitoes," said Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton. "The resources have just not been committed to draining the swamps."

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