If Sacramento County supervisors approve a $10.7 million budget cut for his department, Sheriff Scott Jones said today he will release 540 inmates early from local jails.
Jones said he will have no choice but to release inmates early - the first time in at least the 20 years he's been with the department - because he will have to lay off 36 correctional deputies if the proposed cuts take effect.
"I really don't want to release inmates early - it goes against the core of my being," Jones told the Board of Supervisors today during the start of hearings for the county's proposed 2012-13 budget.
The county's $3.5 billion budget proposal contains a $60 million deficit for all departments. Supervisors will be looking for ways this week to fill holes in the budgets of the sheriff and District Attorney's Office, which is also facing a $2.2 million deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Jones said he doesn't know what types of offenders he would release early from the jails, as the department is just starting to look at the possibility. He said the releases certainly would not be done all at once, and would be done in consultation with other law-enforcement agencies.
The correctional layoffs would handle about half of the sheriff's proposed deficit, Jones said. The other half would be handled through the layoff of 37 deputies in patrol services, which handles crime response and investigations. The department would have to stop responding to certain crimes, such as burglary, and limit the number of patrols, Jones said.
In a similar vein, District Attorney Jan Scully said she would have to place further reductions on the prosecution of drug and property crimes, which have already seen significant reductions because of past cuts.
The county is entering its fifth straight year of budget cuts and the sheriff, the district attorney and other county departments have lost funding for about 4,000 employee positions in that time.
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