Politics & Government

Schwarzenegger's prison plan would move nonviolent felons to county jails

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will revive a plan to house 15,000 nonviolent felons in county jails instead of state prisons, a cost-cutting move that likely would result in some inmates leaving jail early.

The Republican governor will include the proposal in his May budget revision today. His office warned earlier this week that the package will contain "absolutely terrible cuts" to shrink a nearly $20 billion deficit.

Local law enforcement agencies vigorously opposed a similar idea that Schwarzenegger floated in January, in part because the state would not have reimbursed counties for housing inmates. That proposal would have saved the state $291.6 million.

The governor's latest plan would pay counties just under $12,000 per inmate, said Nick Warner, legislative director for the California State Sheriffs' Association. That represents less than half the savings the state would realize by avoiding the expensive costs of prison incarceration.

"It still puts a burden on local governments, but it's better than getting inmates without the money," Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said.

Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear declined to comment on the proposal.

Under the plan, only nonserious, nonviolent, non-sex offender felons would be eligible to serve time in local jails for up to three years, Warner said.

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