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Jail Versus Prison In Los Angeles County


More and more, whether someone goes to jail or to prison is a big issue in the criminal defense system in Los Angeles and across California. The Governor of California has really tried to clean out the prisons because of the overcrowding in the past and has really tried to set it up so only the worse offenders in the criminal justice system actually do prison time. Therefore, there’s a list of crimes that determine whether someone goes to prison or whether they serve their time in county jail.

What I mean by that is a lot of people are getting prison sentences based on the type of crime that they committed and their prior criminal record, but they’re actually serving their time in the county jail. As it stands at the time of this post, people are still doing a very small percentage of the time that they’re sentenced to in the county jail. Basically, it seems to fluctuate between 10% of the time and 25% of the time. I have seen people do up to half the time.

There seems to be a list of crimes that the sheriffs utilize to decide if they’re going to keep the people longer. This whole concept of getting out early from jail may sound strange to you, but the bottom line is that the LA County Sheriff’s Department has limited funds, so they can only house so many inmates and only have so many deputies to watch and deal with the inmates in there. So, they really do have a revolving system in LA county and cases are moved in and out of there very quickly. For example, if someone gets a year sentence and they only serve three weeks of that year sentence, the courts and the prosecutors are going to treat that as though they completed the sentence because they don’t really have control over how the county jail deals with those people that are sent there to serve out a particular sentence.

What Causes Someone To Go To Prison In Los Angeles County?

There’s a host of different factors that will cause somebody to serve a prison sentence in LA county and if you get a prison sentence, it’s much more to find as far as the amount of time that you’re going to do. If it’s a crime that’s not a serious or violent felony pursuant to the three-strikes law in California, then you will probably serve 50% of the time, of course, minus any custody credits that you have. If on the other hand, it’s a serious offense defined by the three-strikes law, then you will serve 80% of the time, and finally if it is a violent felony, then you will serve 85% of the time minus your good time/work time and that’s usually at 15% if it is a violent felony.

As far as which crimes are sending people to prison, one area that will send somebody to prison is if you have a prior strike and then you pick up a new felony and you have to admit that prior strike as part of your deal – under that circumstance you can expect to go to prison and serve a higher percentage of your time. Other crimes that will subject the person to go to prison are any serious or violent felonies. For example, murder, arson, rape – there’s a whole host of crimes – anything that involves great bodily injury which causes it to be a strike.

Really what you need to do is sit down with your criminal defense attorney and figure out what you’re charged with and then that will dictate whether you go to prison or county jail. A lot of times good criminal defense attorneys can negotiate a charge that does not include prison, and therefore, you’ll serve a much smaller percentage of the time and a lot of people obviously don’t want to go to prison.

So, what I have people to do is to come in the office, we sit down. We go over all the facts and circumstances of their case and criminal history, and then once we have a good feel for the totality of the circumstances and the totality of that person’s life, then I can set about either trying to defend the case by using some sort of a defense depending on the facts of the case, or if there is no defense to the case because the prosecutors have good evidence, then I will design a strategy to mitigate the case to try to get a lesser charge and get the least amount of punishment possible so the impact to your record, your future and your freedom is as limited as possible and you get out of the criminal justice system as quick as possible.

What Type Of Programs Does Los Angeles County Have For People Who Are Serving County Jail And Prison Time?

The complete Los Angeles County system of jails and prisons has been overhauled and there are all kinds of programs that are available to people for early release – too numerous to list in this post – but suffice to say, if you have a good attitude and you’re attempting to get out of there as quick as possible, you should definitely avail yourself of one of these programs that makes sense for you in your life because people are getting released at record-early times in today’s jail and prison system. Also, the parole department and probation department have changed in a number of different ways. Really what you need to do is get the best criminal defense attorney you can find. Work out the best resolution possible, and then avail yourself of all the programs that are available in both the county jail and prison system.

As far as serving time in county jail, I don’t think the time is as easy to do in a county jail as the prison because there’s a lot of overcrowding. I think there’s much more violence in county jail than there is in prison, and so even though you’re getting out much quicker, the time could be more difficult in county jail than in prison, especially in Los Angeles County because of the overcrowding, because of the way the county jail system is set up.

So, really what you need to do is sit down with your attorney and go over all of the ins and outs of a county jail or a prison sentence and let them be your guide as far as what the best resolution is and what makes sense for you under the circumstances of your case and your life.

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About the Author

Named Top Los Angeles Criminal Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 criminal defense attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.

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