Sheriff says he’s ready to put mattresses on jail floors

SANTA ANA – Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson on Friday said he may be forced to come up with unpalatable alternatives to ease jail crowding during an expected spike in arrests over Memorial Day Weekend.

“I’ll put mattresses on the floor if I have to,” Anderson said after he and two high-ranking members of his command staff met behind closed doors with Assistant Presiding Judge Kim Dunning.

The meeting was arranged by Orange County Counsel Benjamin DeMayo less than a day after Superior Court Judge Thomas Borris, the presiding judge of the court’s criminal division, rejected Anderson’s request for authority to release some inmates from their sentences early to relieve crowding.

“We talked about a process we can use if it gets bad this weekend,” Anderson said in a court hallway after the 20-minute meeting. “What we talked about yesterday with Judge Borris was anticipatory. What we talked about today was reality, if we become overcrowded.”

Anderson said he agreed to call the Superior Court’s weekend duty judge if his jails become saturated with too many inmates for the beds. The Superior Court bench rotates on-call judges during evenings and weekends if a police agency needs a magistrate to sign search or arrests warrants or to make other decisions.

The duty judge could then be asked to grant immediate permission allowing jailers to start releasing inmates up to five days short of their sentence.

“We’ll wake up a lot of lawyers if we have to,” Anderson said.

The sheriff added that he hopes bad weather will keep people inside over the three-day Memorial Day weekend and the expected spike in arrests will not materialize.

“I see a rainbow in the bad weather,” Anderson said.

In the meantime, Anderson said his staff will seek other alternatives for housing inmates.

He said he will also continue to communicate with the District Attorney’s Office, the county probation office and Superior Court judges to find a more permanent solution to the problem.

Representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, which opposes the release of inmates before they complete their sentences, did not attend the last-minute meeting with Dunning.

Senior Deputy County Counsel Laura Knapp, who along with DeMayo and Senior Deputy County Counsel Jack Golden also attended the meeting in Dunning’s chambers, said prosecutors were invited to the discussion but declined.

Anderson was joined in the closed session by Assistant Sheriff Charles Walters and Capt. Roland Chacon.

Meanwhile, Anderson said he will also contact other local agencies and police chiefs seeking suggestions, ideas and help. He said he will also contact officials in the California Department of Corrections to see if a plan can be worked out to get sentenced felony inmates out of Orange County jails and into prison faster.

“This is not just my problem,” Anderson said. “It is a community problem.”

Anderson said the plan to contact the duty judge “is a process, not even a fix” and that he will continue to face overcrowding in the county’s five jails this summer unless police agencies arrest fewer people or until jail facilities are expanded.

“We will figure this out,” added DeMayo, whose office represents the sheriff’s department in court issues.



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