The Merced County Sheriff is defending the jail's new policy to stop booking parole violators unless they commit a new crime. Merced police say it puts citizens at risk because parolees can be the most dangerous offenders.
Sheriff Mark Pazin says there are too many inmates already in the jail. The department is budgeted to hold about six hundred inmates. As of Thursday, there are more than seven hundred behind bars. Pazin recently sent out a notice that the jail will not take parole violators who haven't committed a new crime. The exception is sex offenders.
“This was a state parole directive that we can no longer accept straight parole violators,” said Pazin.
Although the message was intended for parole officers, police agencies who take their criminals to the Merced County Jail say the policy puts citizens at risk.
“[The policy allows parolees to] commit another crime, victimize someone else, before they get booked at the jail,” said Lt. Bimley West of the Merced Police Department.
Pazin is partially blaming the often slow judicial system for draining jail resources. He points to several convicted felons who, for one reason or another, are still under his watch.
“They’re able to languish, go ahead and write stupid grievances, because they had a boo boo, their oatmeal maybe wasn't warm enough,” said Pazin.
Meanwhile, police wish there was another alternative to turning away parole violators.
“There are people in jail for minor offenses, as well as major. The parolees, they have committed major offenses to be on parole, they're the ones that need to be behind bars,” said West.
A spokesperson for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Luis Patino, said in a statement to CBS47:
“It must be noted that last year, the US Supreme Court ordered California to dramatically reduce its prison population. Realignment helps the State comply without releasing tens of thousands of inmates onto the streets.
As part of realignment, the decision to place an alleged parole violator in jail is ultimately made by the counties. Each county receives realignment funding from the State and allocates this funding based on its own law-enforcement, rehabilitation and funding priorities.
Intermittently, there have been a handful of counties that have been unable to accept parolees for violating technical conditions of parole due to population management decisions at the county level. When this has occurred, or occurs, CDCR works with county officials to help find solutions. At any given time the number of counties not accepting parole violators is small and fluid.”
Pazin also noted that his department would work with agencies if they feel a parole violator is a threat to the community. He says they should just give him a call to argue the case.