Whenever I am at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, one of the major topics of conversation is “fed kicks”. A fed kick (also called federal release) is an early release from the county jail because the jail is full. Under a long-standing federal court order, the Riverside County Jail must release inmates after it reaches a fixed population cap. In 2012 Riverside County released over 6,000 inmates early.
Criminal defendants and inmates in the jail seem to be comparing notes, trying to figure out how to game the system and figure out the best way to deal with their cases, given the reality of federal releases. The most important thing to realize about a fed kick is that it is in no way guaranteed. Many people will serve their entire sentence. This is not a fair process, just because one person was kicked from the jail does not mean that the next guy will identical charges will also get out. The number of fed kicks will be in large part based upon the number of arrests coming in. For example, a big gang raid will mean that many inmates need to be released to make room for the new arrestees.
These are the most important things to keep in mind when trying to figure out if a person will be federally released:
1) The fed kicks seem to apply to both sentenced inmates (who have already gone to trial or took a deal) and to inmates held on bail pending trial or plea. At one time I read the sheriff was prioritizing fed kicks for people pending trial because they are “innocent until proven guilty”. I don’t know if this in an official policy or if they continue to make this a priority.
2) A person with other holds or warrants will not be released. Anybody with an immigration or ICE hold is going to be stuck in county jail. As is any individual with a warrant from another county.
3) Only certain categories of crimes seem to be eligible. Broadly, non-violent theft crimes and drug crimes seem to be eligible for early release. People charged with domestic violence, sex crimes, and violent crimes are going to stay locked up.
4) Don’t count on federal release if the inmate is a gang member or registered sex offender.