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LA County To Reduce Jail Overcrowding With Computer Software Program

MONTEREY PARK ( — The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department hopes to reduce inmate overcrowding with the help of a computer software screening program.

Currently, there are about 19,000 prisoners in the county jail system, which prompted officials to try to figure out which inmates could be released early to home monitoring or other arrangements.

A software program, named by the acronym COMPAS, would help release certain inmates with the use of a 137-question survey.

Each question is geared to determine whether or not it would be safe for an inmate to be released to the general population.

The software uses questions like, "Have you or your friends used drugs or belonged to any gangs?"

Some questions would be used to access the inmates' emotional makeup and anger management skills, while other questions would determine if the prisoner is lying.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said COMPAS is being successfully used in Florida's Broward County jail system.

"This is another tool that can protect the community," he said.

CBS2/KCAL9's Randy Paige asked Whitmore what he would say to critics who think the program would put people's safety at risk based on a "psychological test."

Whitmore responded, "It's a little bit glib to say 'psychological test' because it's significantly more than that. Don't forget each individual case is reviewed by a deputy sheriff."

The spokesman said the sheriff's department intends to use COMPAS along with other strategies, which includes construction of new facilities, using existing jail space in Kern County and utilizing fire camps to make room for the steady flow of inmates.

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