With prison overcrowding affecting municipalities across the nation, some readers may question whether the criminal justice system needs an overhaul. A recent profile of the Los Angeles County prison system provides context for an issue facing other counties, including Florida.

According to local records, even many sex offenders in the prison sentence are serving less than half of their sentences due to overcrowding and scarce resources. With municipalities experiencing tight budgets and the prison population swelling, officials have no choice but to allow the premature release of convicted criminals. In 2011, the county released about 15,700 inmates early. In 2012, that number had risen to approximately 26,000. 

Notably, the general public may not be aware of the rising trend. Lawmakers and citizens want to feel safe in their communities, which is presumably why violent crimes and sex crimes often come with very severe penalties. Commentators may debate about whether longer sentences actually accomplish more deterrence. Yet even critics might agree that prematurely releasing convicted offenders might send the wrong message.

Of course, a sex crimes attorney might view the space crunch affecting prisons across the country as an opportunity for more creative sentencing. Perhaps an offender could agree to community service, therapy and education programs. Home detention might be another option. Contrary to some public opinion, a sex offender might benefit from rehabilitation programs just as much as other criminal offenders. A sex crimes attorney with experience in plea bargaining with prosecutors might have more suggestions to offer, as well as strategies for preparing a sound defense to any criminal charges.

Source: latimes.com, “Even violent and sex offenders released early by L.A. County Jail,” Jack Leonard and Abby Sewell, Aug. 31, 2013