Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Wednesday it was "inevitable" that nonviolent inmates in county jails would be released early if the budget crisis persists.

Currently, inmates in County Jail convicted of nonviolent offenses serve 80 percent of their sentences. But that could drop to 50 percent, department officials said.

"The discussion has moved to the forefront," department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.  "It has become another tool that we are looking at."

Earlier this week, Baca said the department was examining a number of budget-cutting measures, including moving hundreds of deputies from administrative duties to street patrol and slashing overtime payments.

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