blog home Criminal Defense How California’s Work Release Furlough Program Works

How California’s Work Release Furlough Program Works

By San Diego Attorney on August 30, 2023

A businessman released from prison holding a box of belongings outside the prison gates.

California implemented work release and work furlough programs as alternative sentencing options to help reduce overcrowding in correctional facilities. These options allow eligible convicted individuals to serve their sentences while working to earn income. Qualifications may vary from one county to another.

What Are Work Release and Work Furlough Programs?

Work furlough is a type of California program in which eligible inmates serving a sentence in jail are permitted to leave the facility to work during the day. They are required to return to confinement immediately after the workday is over. It is not the same as a work release program in which inmates are allowed to go to their homes after work hours instead of being confined in a state facility.

Not every inmate is eligible for a work furlough program. To qualify, an inmate must meet the following criteria:

  • Be within 120 days of their projected release date
  • Employed for a minimum of 35 hours a week
  • Not be excluded under Penal Code 6263.

Under this statute, inmates may be excluded from work furlough programs if they have been convicted of arson, sex crimes, drug use, or sales or have more than one violent crime conviction.

What Is the Reasoning Behind Furlough Programs?

The reasons for work furlough programs are stated in the California Penal Code at § 6260. The legislature found that overcrowding in correctional institutions is not a desirable method of housing inmates. Instead, more suitable and less costly housing should be developed for appropriate state inmates.

Further, reentry programs for inmates nearing completion of their term provide a more normal environment and the opportunity to begin integrating into society. Although, work furlough programs are only appropriate for certain types of inmates for limited time periods prior to their release.

Who Is Qualified to Work Furlough in Lieu of Jail in California?

Work furlough programs are typically reserved for inmates who are not otherwise excluded under Penal Code 6263 and are within 120 days of the scheduled date for their release from jail. In addition, they must be gainfully employed for at least 35 hours a week in a job that meets the following criteria:

  • Allows telephone checks and job site checks by work furlough staff
  • Is not directly related to the offense committed by the inmate
  • Does not involve the use of weapons
  • Does not involve access to the personal information of any other person

An inmate who meets these qualifications may request the court to be assigned to a work furlough program. The request may be granted or denied at the discretion of the judge.

An inmate is excluded from work furlough programs under the law if the following applies to them:

  • Would pose an unreasonable risk to public safety
  • Convicted of a crime involving arson or sex
  • Has a history of drug use, sales, or addiction or a history of forced escape
  • Has a history of serious institutional misconduct
  • Has more than one violent crime conviction

What Happens if a Work Furlough Condition Is Violated?

Inmates transferred to work furlough programs remain in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Any inmate on work furlough who violates a condition of the program can be returned to the regular jail population by correctional officers to serve out the remainder of their sentence. If the violation committed is a criminal offense, the inmate may be charged with an additional crime.

Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer That Knows How to Win

If you are facing criminal charges, jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys is here to provide the skilled legal representation and guidance you need. Our San Diego criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to building custom-tailored defense strategies so that you can face your charges with confidence.

Since 1990, jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys has been helping countless clients resolve complex cases. Head attorney James N. Dicks is a former Los Angeles Police Department investigator and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist by the California Board of Legal Specialization. He is committed to using his experience and knowledge to help you achieve a favorable outcome.

Contact us at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a free consultation today.

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