SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The county transferred its first low-risk inmates to state-run firefighting camps Friday as part of a recently enacted program designed to bolster the San Diego area's wildfire-suppression capability while simultaneously opening up much-needed jail space.
The offenders left the Vista Detention Facility before dawn en route to the training facilities in central California, according to county officials. Following a regimen of physical-fitness conditioning and skill building, they will return to help staff one of four local Department of Rehabilitation/Cal Fire inmate fire camps.
"Transferring some low-level inmates to fire camps serves public safety on two levels," Sheriff Bill Gore said. "We help make sure local fire camps are staffed to fight wildfires, and we preserve jail space to keep serious criminals in custody."
Since the county's contract with the state for the inmate transfers was finalized late last month, the Sheriff's Department has been screening offenders for the program.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob called the start of the inmate transfers "great news."
"These low-risk offenders provide much-needed boots on the ground when wildfire hits, and they put more muscle into our efforts to manage overgrown brush in high-risk areas," said Jacob, who joined Gore and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis last summer in initiating the program.
The agreement with the state was motivated by changes under prisoner realignment, or Assembly Bill 109. The 2011 measure to address overcrowding in state prisons changed sentencing laws so that some felons serve their time in county jails instead of state prisons.
As a consequence, local lockups are pushing capacity every day, while the state system no longer has enough low-risk offenders to staff its inmate fire camps.
The Sheriff's Department will regularly identify additional low-level offenders who meet state and local criteria for the fire camps and transfer any qualified inmates on a biweekly basis. At any given time, about 50 to 100 inmates in local jails may qualify for transfer.
The county will pay the state $46.19 per day for each inmate transferred to fire camps.
San Diego State University police are responding to a gas leak on campus, the department said in a series of alerts at about 9:20 a.m.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is scheduled Friday to tour the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility, where she will visit migrant mothers who were separated from their children.
Sentencing is scheduled Friday for a San Diego man who beat, raped and strangled a female friend after watching her have sex with another couple, then stuffed her body in a suitcase and put it out with the trash.
As the weather heats up, County Animal Services says you may see more rattlesnakes out and about. The department has already received 656 rattlesnake calls since the beginning of the year, 100 more than last year at this time. Some 30 calls came in since last Wednesday.
A bleeding, gravely injured man banged on the door of a Lemon Grove home in an apparent last-gasp plea for help, and his death a short time later prompted sheriff's deputies to launch a homicide investigation, authorities said Friday.
High pressure over Northern Mexico will warm temperatures Friday. Coastal areas cooler due to weak onshore flow. Excessive heat warning in effect for San Diego County deserts through Friday evening.
Two dogs attacked a woman and her toddler son on an East County roadside Thursday, leaving them seriously injured, authorities said.
Come into Battle Axe and you are sure to learn a thing or two. The "axperts" will teach you two-handed throws and a little humility.