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SANDAG analyzes region’s jail & supervision capacity ahead of influx

With the state poised to shift the responsibility for housing and supervising thousands of convicted criminals to county governments starting in October, SANDAG’s Criminal Justice Division released a report today analyzing the region’s capacity to absorb the offenders.

The report, “Adult Offenders in Local Custody and Under Community Supervision in San Diego County: Current Capacities and Future Needs,” serves as a baseline for tracking the impact of the state “Realignment Plan” on the region. 

In April 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 109 into law requiring counties to assume responsibility for incarcerating, supervising, and rehabilitating offenders who have committed non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual felony crimes and have no prior convictions for these types of offenses. Under the law, counties will also begin to supervise some offenders, including low- and medium- risk sex offenders who have served their sentences in state prison and would have previously been supervised by the state upon their release from incarceration. 

Once the realignment is complete, San Diego County jails and the Probation Department are expected to absorb an additional 4,000 offenders each year who would have previously remained in the state prison and parole systems. The Sheriff estimates that its local jails will reach capacity within eight months of start-up and 1,000 to 2,000 more jail beds will be needed by the fall 2013, the report states.

“While one benefit of realignment is the reduction of inmate populations in California’s prisons, which are operating at nearly double their capacity, the overarching concern of many is that any benefit could be undermined if the state underfunds its mandate to county public safety agencies,” SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research Dr. Cynthia Burke said. 

Highlights from the report include the following: 

  • Nearly 98,000 people were booked into local jails in 2010, or an average of 268 individuals a day.
  • While the adult inmate population at Sheriff’s detention facilities was at 103 percent capacity in 2010, there was variation across the seven facilities, ranging from 83 percent at the Central Jail (the largest booking facility in the county for males) to 145 percent at Las Colinas (the only facility that houses solely females). 
  • In 2010, 67 percent of Sheriff’s inmates were unsentenced and 33 percent were sentenced. The average length of stay for an unsentenced inmate was just more than five days, compared to about two and a half months for a sentenced inmate.
  • A total of 22,660 adults were supervised by the Probation Department in 2010. On any given day, almost four times as many people were on probation as the number of people incarcerated in jails. 
  • About one in three Sheriff’s inmates had some history of aggressive behavior, which resulted in a housing classification of high, maximum, or high-maximum.
  • About 15 percent of the detention population required some type of protective custody or administrative segregation.

    The report concludes that with the realignment, the need for beds at higher security classifications will increase, and that more inmates will require protective custody and administrative segregation. In addition, the report notes that it is essential for the Sheriff to examine how mental health, medical, and other services can continue to be delivered effectively in light of the new influx of inmates. The report also emphasizes the importance of using evidence-based practices, including risk-based supervision, to deal with the influx of parolees.

  • Project Manager(s)

    Dr. Cynthia Burke, Director, Criminal Justice Research Division
    Phone: (619) 699-1910, E-mail:

    For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or