Realignment Reality: Soft Security meets Hard Time
Realignment provided the environment needed by a “dangerous felon” to effect an escape in Merced County–Thanks to AB109-induced jail crowding, he was housed in a “low risk” (minimum security) jail pending trial. He was looking at over 3 decades if convicted.
The Merced Sun Star’s Rob Parsons reports David O’Neal Coleman Jr. escaped from the John Latorraca Correctional Center by breaking through the drywall ceiling of a wood framed dorm and climbing over a razor wire topped fence. At the time of the escape, Coleman was pending a preliminary hearing on 6 fresh felonies described as “drug, weapons and theft-related charges.”
The jail has reportedly been “plagued” by escapes since AB109 became law, though no firm numbers have been provided. Prior to Coleman’s flight, the most recent escape was in December 2013.
Merced County Sheriff Tom Cavallero said the jail was built to house minimum security inmates for what was then the maximum jail term: 12 months. Thanks to realignment, Merced County now has inmates with terms as long as 17 years. “The truth is, realignment left us with a whole different class of prisoners than what the county jails were built to house,” Cavallero stated.
Coleman is a white male, 6-feet tall, 200 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes, and facial hair. Excluding the new escape charge and any other felonious deeds committed prior to apprehension, he faces a maximum sentence of nearly 34 years. Deputy District Attorney Steve Slocum was paraphrased to say the potential term would be served in prison, however, Paco believes the reporter simply used the term out of habit. Even the media is having a hard time comprehending jail terms longer than the historic, traditional year.
A 40-year-old Merced resident, Coleman has 22 convictions including 10 violent offenses, largely spousal batteries. He served a prison term for escape.
Deputy Sheriff Delray Shelton asked the public to call 911 if Coleman is spotted. “Do not try to impede or apprehend Coleman as he is a dangerous felon.”
On a critical note, Paco understands Merced is a small county of meager means. Even so, the Sheriff’s Department made a bad call housing a pre-trial inmate with a prior escape conviction in a cracker box jail.
To say the escape was predictable is an understatement–It was inevitable.
Realignment put Sheriff Cavallero’s agency in a tough position to be sure…All the more reason to retool the classification system, add a few layers of review and whatever else it takes to keep long-termers, potential long-termers and other hard core offenders in the most secure facility. -
Source: ‘Dangerous felon’ escapes from a Merced County jail (Sacramento Bee)