POLITICS
11/04/2014 11:55 am ET

Ex-Lawmaker Sentenced To 90 Days In Jail Leaves After An Hour Thanks To Overcrowding

ASSOCIATED PRESS

California prisons are so overcrowded that one former lawmaker recently sentenced to 90 days in prison was released almost immediately.

In January, a Los Angeles jury convicted former state Sen. Roderick Wright (D) on eight felony counts including perjury and voter fraud after prosecutors alleged that Wright had lied about living in the district he represented. (California law requires state legislators to establish "domicile" in their districts.) Wright was later sentenced to 90 days in jail, and resigned from the state Senate shortly after his sentencing.

Wright, who has maintained he is innocent, was due to surrender to authorities and begin his jail term last Friday. However, as the Sacramento Bee reported Monday, Wright arrived at the Los Angeles County jail facility at 9:40 p.m., and was released at 10:41 p.m., shortly after completing his processing paperwork.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida told the Bee that Wright was released due to jail crowding, in addition to his crime's nonviolent nature and his lack of prior convictions.

“A lot of people are not serving 100 percent of their time because of overcrowding,” Nishida said.

Wright will still be under probation for three years, and is required to perform 1,500 hours of community service.

California spends approximately $2 billion a year on funding its overcrowded prison system, which as of February was at 144 percent of capacity. The state is under court order to significantly reduce its prison population by February 2016, and has been required to make more elderly and ill patients eligible for parole.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in August, approximately 13,500 inmates are being released each month from county jails to help relieve crowding. County authorities use different formulas to determine which prisoners to release early, often depending on the seriousness of the crime.

Wright was one of several California state senators embroiled in ethics scandals this year.

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