The Desert IndependentTM
Serving Blythe and the Desert Regions of the Southwest Since 2001
SB 54: ICE and public info access to jail inmate info
April 29, 2018
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif – Although SB 54 (Values Act) was continually opposed by our state’s sheriffs during 2017, it was signed into law that became effective for 2018. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department complies with that law just as our surrounding agencies do, including our jail operations, and just as Orange County, San Bernardino County, and other neighboring county sheriffs do. Within the constraints of SB 54, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department still coordinates with ICE on inmate releases from custody. Even though allowed to do so, some California agencies do not.
Some in the public believe erroneously that local jails are prohibited from sharing any information with ICE, other agencies, victims or others by SB 54, and that is untrue. Jail booking information has long been public information and Riverside County’s jail system has long exchanged this public information with the press, the public and other agencies. SB 54 establishes limits of access to jail inmates by ICE, and restricts the release of information on those being released from custody for lower-level offenses.
When an individual is booked into a county jail their fingerprints are collected and sent digitally through California on to the federal government, eventually to ICE. Once ICE obtains the local booking fingerprints they determine if a jail inmate is wanted for any potential immigration violation. ICE can then contact a local jail for an opportunity to access the inmate pursuant to SB 54 requirements, or take them into custody, when they are to be released.
Any law enforcement agency, including ICE, or any member of the public, can access the Department’s website to obtain public inmate information, including release dates online, or even by telephone.
Accessing inmate information is easily done by visiting the Departments website at www.riversidesheriff.org. The user can then click the “Inmates & Jails” tab on the home page of the website. This will take the user to a new page which provides a brief description and location of each of the five Riverside County jail facilities. On the right side of the page, the user can click on “Inmate Booking Number” to see specific information for an individual inmate.
Any member of the public, or any outside law enforcement agency may access inmate information using the inmate’s name or booking number on this website. The information obtained includes the inmate’s full name, date of birth, booking charges, case number, future court dates, housing location, visiting schedule, and bail information.
This same website also provides the release dates for all sentenced inmates in custody. Making available, online or by phone, these inmate release dates does not conflict with SB 54. The website information provides quick and easy access to information for inmate’s families, and anyone else interested in the specific inmate, including victims. Historically, release date information has always been available to the public through phone inquiry as well. State law has long mandated victim notifications on the release of inmates with specified violent charges.
Federal Court Ordered Releases A more challenging problem for Riverside County is the issue of “early releases” from our jail system, due to the permanent federal court order now in place for decades, that requires the “early release” of inmates to avoid chronic jail overcrowding in our Riverside County jail system. The County of Riverside has been operating under this order since 1993 due to that chronic local jail overcrowding.
The Department always gives careful consideration when determining which inmates are to be released early based on the federal court order to the Sheriff, focusing primarily on non-violent offenders. Generally, these inmates would not qualify for ICE notification under SB 54 due to the very lesser nature of their charges.
As a reminder, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department provides inmate release information on federal court-ordered “early releases” to County Probation, State Parole, our local courts, and to our County Mental Health to ensure proper resources and court-ordered supervision are uninterrupted. This information on federal “early releases” is also publicly available at the same website, although those actual release times are not known well in advance, but as overcrowding triggers the federal court-ordered release action.
The Sheriff’s Department also participates in the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) program. The website which is located at www.vinelink.com Opens in New Window allows victims of crimes, and other concerned citizens, access to timely and reliable information regarding offenders. It is completely confidential, and features multiple language support. Once accessed, the user can search for an inmate by name and request to be notified via phone or email when an inmate is released.
As indicated earlier, victims of certain violent crimes are also directly notified by the Sheriff’s Department pursuant to California law prior to the suspect’s release.
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