Suck It Up, Sheriff Gore

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San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore tells the Union-Tribune that he's betrayed by Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to transfer some state prisoners to local jails.

To which the only proper reply is: Suck it up, sheriff.

Brown's transfer is being portrayed by law enforcement -- Gore is hardly the only one to complain -- as a way for the state to push its budget problems onto local governments. But in fact, the opposite is true. For years, even decades, local law enforcement has pushed its costs and budget issues on the state. 

In California, local law enforcement, from police to sheriffs to prosecutors, have long pushed as many people as possible into longer sentences in state prison because they don't have to pay for it. State taxpayers, not local taxpayers, handle the costs. They did this even though studies show that it's cheaper to keep offenders closer to home, either in jails or diversion programs. The problem was that while it's cheaper than state prison, it's not cheaper for the locals, since they don't pay the costs of state prison and do bear the costs of local solutions.

It's also easier for local law enforcement to send convicted criminals to the state. That means they don't have to do the hard work of assessing risks and figuring out which convicts might benefit from alternatives to prison time. By forcing those decisions back on locals, Brown is not only saving money but he's forcing local law enforcement to make choices and set priorities in how they manage criminals.

This makes local law enforcement's job harder. Which is a good thing. These sorts of decisions are best made in local communities. And they save money. It's also worth remembering that local law enforcement personnel in California are the best paid law enforcement personnel in the country. So they're being paid to make tough decisions. It's time to make them.

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