SANTA ANA (CBSLA) -- Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer on Saturday released a statement criticizing a court ruling ordering the O.C. Sheriff to reduce jail populations by 50% as a coronavirus precaution.
Spitzer argued such actions could bring more crime to communities and said steps have already been taken to reduce jail populations.
"A judge's ruling to reduce the inmate population in the Orange County jail system by half will release dangerous and violent criminals back into our neighborhoods to commit more crimes and victimize more people. This is not fearmongering; it is a fact. The jail population, through the implementation of $0 bail and early release by the Sheriff, has been reduced by more than 33% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement began.
"Orange County inmates released early before serving their full sentence or on $0 bail went out and committed new crimes at rates at nearly triple normal recidivism rates: 44% for early release inmates and 38% for $0 bail defendants," he continued.
The D.A. also cited crimes committed by people who have been released early from jail, which included auto theft, burglary, robbery, assault, weapons, theft and narcotics, he said.
In one example, Spitzer said a 23-year-old man stabbed his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend four times, killing her nearly a month after being released on $0 bail.
"Throwing open the jail doors and releasing dangerous and violent inmates back into our communities where they will no doubt continue to commit new crimes is not the answer. It is not in the interest of the criminal justice system, it is not in the interest of the public, and it is not in the interest of safety," Spitzer said in the statement.
The decision by the court to order O.C. jails to reduce its population was a result of a lawsuit filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union to protect vulnerable inmates.
"The court's decision to alleviate the pressure on the jail by depopulating will help prevent the medical infrastructure — in the jail and in the surrounding community — from becoming totally overwhelmed," Daisy Ramirez, jails conditions and policy coordinator at the ACLU SoCal, said. "This order recognizes that we must not forget the humanity of incarcerated people, and they should not be put in mortal danger."
The ACLU and O.C. Sheriff's Department were ordered to file a joint status report of compliance no later than January 6.
Spitzer said his office will bring his arguments against the judge's order to the court's attention.
"If the Sheriff appeals this ruling - and I hope he does - the District Attorney's Office will file an amicus brief with our data which demonstrates just how dangerous this decision is," Spitzer said.
Spitzer's full statement can be read here.
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