Monterey County is readying plans to ship inmates from its overcrowded jail to Alameda County, Sheriff Scott Miller said Thursday.
Miller said the County Counsel's Office is "fine-tuning" a contract to send about 50 inmates north to serve some of Monterey County's longer jail sentences.
There will be no savings to the county, Miller said, and the cost of the contract will likely amount to $1.5 million per year.
"This is the hellish part of this, because the state made no financial adjustments" for counties to handle the overload caused by state prisoner realignment, he said. "We'll be taking money that could have gone toward rehabilitation programs and we'll be spending it on simply housing them.
"Other counties can spend their state (realignment) money on programs to lower recidivism. We don't have that luxury."
The contract preparation should be completed within 30 days, Miller said, and the transfers are set to begin immediately after.
The jail population has surged in recent weeks to about 1,160 inmates in a facility designed for 824 — about 100 more people than it regularly held last fall.
"Our population has been growing steadily higher," Miller said. Part of that is because of realignment, which has many inmates convicted of lower-level offenses doing jail time instead of prison terms.
Another result of realignment has been a steady increase in inmates serving very long sentences in jail.
Monterey County has ordered more offenders to serve long prison sentences in jail than several of Northern California's largest counties, a new report shows.
The survey, released Thursday by the California State Sheriffs' Association, looked at how many lower-level offenders are doing five years or more in local jails that may not be equipped to handle them.
Monterey County has 12 such offenders, including one man serving an eight-year, eight-month sentence.
In contrast, Alameda County, with a population more than three times Monterey County's 420,000, has handed down only 10 long-term jail sentences, with the maximum being eight years and four months.
San Francisco County, population 812,000, has none.
Statewide, the numbers are staggering, with more than 1,100 inmates sentenced to serve between five and 10 years in local jails. Nearly 400 of those are from Los Angeles County.
Measuring how the length of the sentences will affect jails can be confounding because Monterey County and other county jails offer good behavior time reductions of 50 percent.
Still, local jails are facing the prospect of housing a new inmate population for which they were never intended — most county jail inmates have historically been people awaiting trial, not "long-timers."
"When you're housing people for four years or more, you have some obligation if the theory of realignment is to be believed," Miller said. "If you can't provide meaningful programs, how can you reduce the recidivism rate?"
Jail inmates often say they would rather spend their terms in state prisons, saying there are more educational programs, better medical and mental health care, and more exercise time in the yards.
Some major problems facing inmates serving long sentences in jail include "more significant and longer-term health issues and mental health problems that tend to be exacerbated," Miller said.
He said inmates serving the longest sentences will be the first sent to the Alameda County jails.
The transfers will likely continue until a 288-bed jail wing is built, perhaps by 2015 or later.
It is not an ideal arrangement, Miller said, in part because family unification is considered a critical element in lowering recidivism rates.
"We certainly want to do our best to see realignment work," he said. "But it's not a healthy component of realignment for families that want to visit inmates if we're sending them as far away as the prisons."