The unprecedented California budget crisis has now resulted in the San Diego Superior Court closing every third Wednesday of the month, effective September 1, 2009. Court clerks have already cut-back to a shorter work day, and the court closing will put further strain on a majority of criminal court defendants and defense lawyers. The budget mess has also forced the California Legislature to consider a number of proposals to allow for early release of prisoners. The early release will lighten the budget load as the higher cost of housing prison inmates will be eased by the lower cost of parole supervision. This proposal, of course, does not apply to inmates in county jails serving a probationary sentence. There are a few county sheriffs, however, that take a creative approach to the meaning of “custody” by allowing their county inmates to “serve custody” in ways ranging from electronic surveillance to work release. In this way their budget load is lightened.
The budget mess is clearly both helping and hurting criminal defendants.