Most of Cal. Realignment funds go to Jail Expansion

January 20,2013

It’s disheartening to see the negligible amount of money that has been made available for rehabilitation and reentry programs under California’s Realignment Reform. Most of the state’s money comes from a discretionary realignment fund that counties can use to fund realignment projects as they see fit.

According to a report last year by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, criminal justice critics say county leaders could have spent more of their new money on rehabilitation. In the first year of realignment, counties budgeted 16 percent of the $367 million they received from the state for services such as mental health and drug treatmentScreen shot 2012-11-04 at 6.14.22 PM (Sacramento Bee, Jan 14,2013).

“Leaders at the California State Association of Counties, the Chief Probation Officers of California and the California State Sheriffs’ Association say they need more money for job training, mental health care and substance abuse treatment.” But still the state overwhelmingly supports funding jail expansion at the expense of treatment and rehabilitation dollars. California’s new budget proposal plans to give counties $500 million for new jail space, on top of $500 million that is now being distributed through a competitive grant program.

Part of the problem is that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation historically has not emphasized rehabilitation,  Just 5 percent of department spending goes to programs and services for offenders,

And part of the problem is that counties are fearful of the political consequences of crimes committed by offenders serving prison sentences in jail facilities. According to the Sacramento Bee article,” Sixty percent of parolees released to counties from October 2011 through September 2012 were arrested for new offenses within 12 months of leaving prison, the same rate as a comparable population of parolees managed by the state the year before the law took effect.”

There are several promising provisions in the Governors new state budget that may have a substantial impact on those statistics. The budget proposal authorizes  $81 million to go toward re-entry centers, mental health services and drug treatment for offenders.

Most significantly, the Budget  proposal would require that all felony sentences served in county jails be split between jail time and mandatory supervision, unless a judge concludes that a split sentence is not in the interest of justice. That last provision promises to reverse the current trend, where judges across the state are overwhelmingly sentencing felons to county jail  under AB109 for straight time (straight time may not include “mandatory supervision, basically community based supervision or probation).

Until the counties meet their responsibility to provide substantial rehabilitation resources and monitoring for prisoners released from jail under P.C. AB109, we are unlikely to see significant benefits from the transfer of felons from state prisons to county jails.

Cal Prison Report shows Post-Realignment arrests down

May 20, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 3.23.14 PMA new study conducted by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) shows that arrests post-realignment are down compared to pre-realignment. Among the finding released in the report (click on image on the left for PDF of report):

•    Post-Realignment offenders were arrested at a lower rate than pre-Realignment offenders (62 percent pre-Realignment and 58.7 percent post-Realignment).
•    The rate of post-Realignment offenders convicted of new crimes is nearly the same as the rate of pre-Realignment offenders convicted of new crimes (21.3 percent pre-realignment and 22.5 percent post realignment).
•    Post-Realignment offenders returned to prison at a significantly lower rate than pre-Realignment offenders, an intended effect of Realignment as most offenders are ineligible to return to prison on a parole violation. (42 percent pre-Realignment and 7.4 percent post-Realignment)

Conflicting Views on California Realignment

April 23, 2012

Depending on who you talk to, you will get very different views on the success or failure of California Realignement. Known as AB109, the Reform Act has reduced the number of California prisoners by more than 20,000 since its inception in October of 2011. By that definition, it clearly has achieved its intended goal of bringing down California’s prison population to limits set last year by the U.S. Supreme Court . The beds have been removed from prison gymnasiums (see photo on left). The issue being hotly debated across the state is the cost of doing so.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there has been a reduction in the number of persons who have recidivated in Los angeles County since AB109 began.  “Before realignment, California had a 67 percent recidivism rate. That means almost seven out of every 10 people we let out came back to us (within a year).” Los angeles County now reports a 25 percent recidivism rate over the initial six month period – or about 50 percent when figured at an annual rate (as reported 3/28/2012).

On the other hand, the Sacramento-based, “Criminal Justice Legal Foundation” (CJLF) claims offenders who now qualify for local jail or treatment under AB109 are already being arrested for new felonies, including violent crimes. CJLF President Michael Rushford said these reports are just the beginning. “Just six months since the rollout of the new realignment law, it is already evident that California has become a more dangerous place for law-abiding people to live and work.(as reported, 4/21/12)

Clearly, there is no consensus as to how realignment is affecting public safety. And it is too early to reach any definitive conclusion. What we do know is that California is slowly reducing the number of non-violent offenders in our prisons and shifting their supervision to the counties (mostly probation). Some believe that except for the recession, Realignment would never have happened. But whatever the reason, it has reestablished community control and responsibility for the non-violent offender and opened a door to a plethora of community based alternatives to incarceration (as reported 12/20/11).



Cal Parole Reentry Courts Start-Up

Dec. 14th

The California Parole Reentry Court Project is an exciting California pilot program offering court –based rehabilitation, monitoring, and reintegration services to parole violators. It is a state wide statutory pilot project, set up in six counties, working with parole violators, with histories of substance abuse and/or mental illness, who are at high risk of reoffending.

In 2009, the legislature passed, and the governor signed Senate Bill 18, Sec.49 granting Superior Court Judges jurisdiction over parole violators for the first time. (Penal Code 3015).

The actual structure of the six pilot projects, has been the subject of extensive negotiations by the California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) over the past six months. Those negotiations resulted in an MOU between those state agencies on December 1, 2010. Even so, counties  have major discretion to develop their own individual programs. For example,  parole officers may refer parole violators to the program, but the Parole Reentry Court Judge may reject them if they do not meet eligibility criteria set  by that county.

The six county projects  funded through a Federal Recovery grant administered by the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) receive approximately $10 million for for the project, slated to end September 30, 2012.

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