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Gov. Schwarzenegger: House Felons in County Jails

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is looking for ways to shrink a nearly $20 billion deficit and has proposed a plan to put non-violent felons in county jails.

Under the governor's latest plan, about 15,000 non-violent felons would be housed in county jails for up to three years, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The main issue, however, is that counties would get just under $12,000 per inmate, which represents less than half the savings the state would realize by avoiding the greater costs of prison incarceration.

On the other hand, some lawmakers say Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal could be helpful in avoiding judicial orders to release state prisoners.

As previously discussed, California's new early release rules have sparked legal battles.

The state has been ordered to trim its prison population in an effort to fix long known prison problems. The state would also like to reduce its $60 billion budget deficit.

California passed legislation aimed at trimming the state's inmate population by 6,300 in 2010 through a combination of parole reforms and early release initiatives, such as the grant of time credits for inmates who complete educational programs.

As previously discussed, Sacramento and Orange County sheriff's' unions, along with the Crime Victims United of California have all filed lawsuits to stop the law from taking effect.

The sheriffs' unions claim the law is bad policy and puts public safety at risk by releasing prisoners early. In addition, there is some confusion about whether the new law applies to county prisoners or only state prisoners, and there is much additional confusion around whether the new rules are to be applied retroactively to time served before the law went into effect on January 25.

Currently, California houses an inmate population of roughly 150,000 in a system designed for 80,000.