Early release of inmates re-evaluated after 17 News investigation

The Kern County Sheriff's Department is re-evaluating the way it releases inmates after 17 News told you Friday that a six-time DUI offender was set free from Lerdo Jail after serving 81 days of a six-year sentence.

The Kern County Sheriff's Department is re-evaluating the way it releases inmates after 17 News reported Friday that a six-time DUI offender was set free from Lerdo Jail after serving 81 days of a six-year sentence.

Israel Iglesias was supposed to be locked up for six years, but was released after less than three months. "This really has us defensive on trying to do the right thing," said Sheriff Donny Youngblood, Kern County Sheriff's Department.

Iglesias' early release could bring changes to how the Sheriff's Department chooses which inmates at Lerdo Jail to release early. "I've asked questions, and I want to know how that happened and what level are decisions being made," Youngblood continued.

Iglesias is out because of Assembly Bill 109. The state realignment plan, which took effect in October, sends state parolees who violate their parole conditions to Lerdo Jail, allowing others to be released early, back to the streets under supervision.

"What is that going to teach them? What's going to happen next time they come though? Yeah, give me ten years. Give me 20 years," said Scott Spielman, Assistant Kern County District Attorney.

Under the realignment plan, a group of deputies at Lerdo Jail decides which inmates to release early.

Iglesias was released because he is considered a non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offender.

"Every day is a different day, and come Friday we have to prepare for the weekend. This is somewhat of a chess game with real lives, and it's pretty frightening because we're trying to protect the public as best we can," said Youngblood.

According to court documents, Iglesias was serving a six-year sentence after he was arrested in December for driving under the influence on a suspended license.

Police say Iglesias drove legally drunk into a DUI checkpoint. He was booked into jail on his sixth DUI. It was his third DUI in three years.

As part of Iglesias' early release, he checks in with a parole agent and takes substance abuse and driving classes that he must complete between 18 and 30 months to become eligible for a California driver's license.

"I'm going to classes three times a week. I got Sheriff's parole every month. I got to check with felony probation, they got a chain now around me. They'll give you slack, but they'll only give you enough to hang yourself," said Iglesias.

"Just from what I know about this, I didn't like what I saw. How did that happen? At the very least, when we release someone that is controversial, it has to come to at least the Bureau Chief's level to make that decision," said Youngblood.

"I can't expect line staff to make controversial decisions the administration should be making. So we're looking at how that happened and whether we did the right thing or the wrong thing," he continued.

Sheriff Youngblood reminds us that Kern County's population has doubled since the 1980s, while the number of jail beds has remained stagnant.

There is a federal cap on how many inmates the Sheriff's Department can house at Lerdo Jail, and Youngblood says if he goes over that number it would cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits.

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