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EARLY-RELEASE PLAN TARGETS NONVIOLENT JAIL INMATES.

Byline: Stacy Brown Daily News Staff Writer

Nearly 4,000 nonviolent inmates, including hundreds at the Peter J. Pitchess Detention Center in Saugus, will go home early under a new house-arrest program to ease jail overcrowding, a sheriff's spokesman said Wednesday.

Inmates chosen for early release will wear electronic monitoring bracelets until their sentences are complete, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Henry Garza said.

The program is an expansion of the department's Community Based Alternative to Custody, implemented in June under a court order to relieve overcrowded jail facilities.

County jails house a total of 21,000 inmates - about 10,000 of them in the five jails at the Pitchess complex north of Santa Clarita. All of the jails are at capacity, Garza said.

The county Sheriff's and Probation departments will work together to monitor the inmates at home, he said, noting, ``The main benefit is that, although some inmates will be released to house arrest, they will serve 100 percent of their sentence.''

Jail officials will begin assessing inmates this month to decide who qualifies for release.

``Each inmate will be carefully screened,'' Garza said. The house arrests are viewed by the department as a better alternative to early releases ordered when county jails exceed capacity.

``We had inmates doing only 25 percent of their sentence because of overcrowding,'' Garza said.

Of the more than 21,000 inmates at Pitchess, only the less-violent offenders will be eligible for monitoring at home.

``It's actually easier to say who is not eligible than who is eligible,'' Garza said.

Among those who will not be eligible are those convicted of murder, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and indecent exposure. Garza said there are already about 1,500 people under house arrest in the county.

Sheriff's officials prefer house arrest over alternative work-release programs because it allows for better monitoring.

``The inmates will be subjected to random on-site visits by deputies, and they'll be watched carefully,'' Garza said.

With Pitchess among the many jails at or near capacity, Garza said about 20,000 inmates are processed daily, and that number should drop with the new house-arrest program.

``Little by little it will decrease,'' he said. ``The program has been a tremendous success, and it is growing.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Jan 1, 1998
Words:374
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