County's jail maverick retires

One of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s leading voices for rehabilitation retired Thursday following a 33-year career.

Milo Fitch, 55, chief deputy of the department’s correctional services division since October 2013, served as captain of the county’s primary custodial institution, Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, when the state realigned its prison system.

That began in October 2011, shortly after the Supreme Court deemed California’s systemically overcrowded pens unconstitutional. In effect, realignment steered thousands of low-level offenders who would ordinarily serve their sentences in state prisons to local county jails that weren’t used to incarcerating offenders for longer than a year. The state also paid counties millions for the influx of new prisoners, supposedly for rehabilitation, but local officials claimed the money was only enough to add jail space and hire probation officers.

Fitch was one of the first to spot opportunity in realignment, traveling the nation and consulting researchers to create GED, welding, culinary and computer programs at the jail, among others. Other county criminal-justice agencies gradually took note.

He also recently captained an effort to bring state-funded mental health services and programming resources to the jail.

One of Fitch’s proudest accomplishments, he said, was creating the Sacramento County Reentry Council, an eclectic mix of government and private groups focused on providing re-entry services to exiting jail inmates.

Fitch acknowledged it took “a lot to turn that ship” that is Sacramento’s criminal-justice system, but expressed optimism about the future. “We’re farther along, in my opinion, than any other county,” he said.

Fitch said he agonized over his decision to retire. He told SN&R he’d likely return in a reserve capacity after six months, and is considering other second-career opportunities, including a possible teaching position at Sacramento State University. “I’m going to stay engaged,” he said. “It’s a great place to work, and I can’t just leave it.”

In the meantime, he’s looking forward to working on his ranch, and preparing a 5-year-old show horse for competition next year.

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