Friday, June 27, 2003
Better Communication Needed About Inmate Releases, Dukes Tells Baca
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Sheriff’s Department needs to do a better job of explaining its criteria for early release of inmates to the judges who hear criminal cases, Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Dukes has told Sheriff Leroy Baca.
In a letter dated Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained yesterday by the MetNews, Dukes wrote:
“I am writing to express growing concern of the judges of the Court regarding their inability to understand the parameters surrounding the Sheriff’s Release Policy. While I believe the Court understands the difficult situation you have in dealing with the inmate population because of lack of bed space and budgetary concerns, there appears to be a lack of communication from your department to the judicial branch in a manner as was done in the past.
“It is important that the judicial officers of Los Angeles County have communication from your staff which clearly, accurately, and promptly advises them of the specifics of the Release Policy, the reasons therefore, and of changes to the policy when made.”
Such communications will give the judges a better understanding as to what type of cases require consideration of alternative sentences such as community service and house arrest, Dukes went on to say.
“Please understand that the Court is cognizant of and sympathetic to the Sheriff’s budget problems,” he assured Baca. “While the Court cannot officially approve the Release Policy, taking these steps will go a long way toward minimizing the likelihood of adverse consequences.”
A spokesman for Baca said late yesterday he was still formulating his response to the letter. But Cmdr. Marc Klugman, of the Sheriff’s Correctional Services Division, said he expected to “reach a consensus” once top officials of the court and the department have had a chance to meet.
Such a meeting has been scheduled for the afternoon of July 1. Slated to attend, according to officials on both sides, are Judge Dan Oki, who supervises the criminal courts; Judge David Wesley, who is to take over that assignment from Oki on July 7; Sheriff’s Chief Charles Jackson of the Custody Division; and Sheriff’s Cmdr. Richard Martinez of the Court Services Division.
Klugman said the department continues to operate under federal guidelines with respect to early release of inmates, but that the department and the court currently have “a difference of opinion” as to precisely how those guidelines are supposed to work.
Dukes was unavailable yesterday for further comment on his letter, and Oki and Wesley could not be reached.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company