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SF Explores Sentencing Panel Ahead Of State Prisoner Influx

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BarbaraTaylor_KCBS_0001r Barbara Taylor
Barbara Taylor is the long time San Francisco City Hall Bureau Chief...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The large number of state prison inmates expected to inundate San Francisco county jails has city officials scrambling to reduce the number of prisoners it will have to house.

Starting Oct. 1, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation plans to send thousands of convicted felons back to local jails in the counties where the crimes were committed.

So Supervisor Scott Weiner introduced legislation to create a sentencing commission tasked with finding more effective ways of sentencing convicted felons so they do not wind up committing even more crimes once they are freed.

“There are some people who need to be incarcerated, and other people who might benefit from other types of responses,” Weiner said.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

The idea was endorsed by District Attorney George Gascon, the former police chief campaigning for a full term after being appointed by Gavin Newsom.

“This is about public safety. I think it’s really important to underline this is not about being soft on crime,” Gascon said.

Gascon said the commissioners faced a huge challenge in devising their policy recommendations since 77 percent of ex-convicts re-offend.

The current police chief, the public defender, and San Francisco probation officials have all backed Weiner’s proposal, which would dissolve the sentencing commission after three years.

Related: Brown Pledges Money To California Counties For Prisoner Realignment

The realignment beginning Saturday transfers the state’s responsibility for lower-level drug offenders, thieves and other convicts to county jurisdictions.

It’s designed to save the state money and reduce the number of offenders committing new crimes. But it also might lead to thousands of criminals spending less time behind bars or in the parole office.

Some prosecutors and county sheriffs predict rising crime and other dire outcomes.  Others say California’s counties can provide better rehabilitation services that can only improve on the state’s dismal record.

Officials said they had little choice after a federal court ordered California to reduce prison crowding.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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