Governor Approves Knabe Plan to Slow Jail Early Release Program

A policy idea first proposed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe last year, that would increase the electronic monitoring of convicted felons, has now been signed into statewide law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Bill, signed by the Governor yesterday, could allow thousands of inmates sentenced for minor, non-violent crimes to be shifted out of County jail beds and into electronic monitoring instead. This would allow the additional jail beds to be used to ensure violent criminals serve longer portions of their sentences, a problem that now exists under the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Early Release Program.

The idea for increased use of electronic monitoring was presented by Supervisor Knabe to the Board of Supervisors in July 2006. After the Board approved making Knabe’s plan a legislative priority, an author for the Bill was successfully sought in State Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles).

Under the old state law, many convicted criminals were allowed to choose between a jail sentence and electronic monitoring. Many criminals chose jail time instead of the electronic monitoring option because they knew that under the current statistics of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Early Release Program, if they enter the County jail system, they will likely only serve 10-percent of the time they were actually sentenced with, as opposed to serving 100-percent of their sentence on electronic monitoring.

Supervisor Knabe’s proposal asked the Governor and legislators to revise the State law to ensure that the decision between electronic monitoring and a jail term is left to the law enforcement community and not in the hands of lawbreakers. Under the new law, electronic monitoring will become mandatory for certain non-violent offenders, and as a result, it will free up much-needed beds in County jails for the very worst offenders, who need to remain behind bars for more than just a fraction of their sentences.

If a criminal receives a 30-day sentence, then why would they agree to be electronically monitored that entire time if they know the loopholes of early release mean a 30-day sentence translates into only a few days behind bars, said Supervisor Knabe. The choice between the two should not be an option in the hands of convicted criminals. Criminals should not get to choose their punishment simply because one takes less time to complete. Length of punishment belongs in the hands of our judges and when a judge imposes a sentence, that sentence needs to stick.

Ultimately, we need additional jail beds to ensure that every criminal serves every day he is sentenced to, but until that day comes, this new Bill will ensure that the very worst offenders will remain behind bars and that the electronic monitoring option will be used only for non violent criminals. I applaud Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Romero, and all the legislators who supported this important Bill.

Up to 2,000 inmates in the Los Angeles County jail system will be placed into electronic monitoring through the use of ankle bracelets. As of this week, there are only 413 offenders on electronic monitoring.