Governor Brown’s “Prison Realignment” Plan

EXTRA/Aug 08, 2011

Governor Jerry Brown responded to a three panel Federal Appeals Court order to present its plan to reduce California’s proson population by 10,000 prisoners by Novemeber, as an intermediary step in responding to the U.S. Supreme court decision to reduce prisons by 40 ,000 prisoners by 2013 (article)

The governor’s plan relies substantially on the transfer of non-violent prisoners to county jurisdiction. While the governor claims that he can not move forward on his plan untill and unless additional funds are found to pay for the reallignment to county jurisdiction, the process is already under way.

Well informed sources report that most parole matters will shift to  county court jurisdiction as of July 1st and that $40 million has been allotted to allow county courts to take over parole revocation responsibilites. While everything and anything may change as budget legislation is finalized, it is expected that the reallignment will move forward, if slowly depending on further funding.

We can also expect that all non violent non serious offenses to be resolved with county jail sentences, and only violent offenders sent to prison. Further, that almost all parole violators will be housed in county jail and any sanctions will be facilitated through the auspices of the county probation department, adjudicated under the county court system, and sanctioned through the local county jail (or other local alternative to custody).

No one could have expected such an extraordinary change in felony sentencing, reduction in prison committments, or shift to local jurisdictions. What we are seeing is a huge sea change in how felons are dealt with by the criminal justice sytem in California. And perhaps, to emphasize the point made in the previous article (State Prison Reentry Court RFP Needs State Leadership), changes in how prisoners are handled in a reentry court will only occur when state criminal justice leaders take a strong leadership position. Although it is messy and somewhat uncertain, the movement of non-violent felons from prison to jail based supervision, is an extraordinarily important and encouraging development that should be studied and hopefully emmulated in other states.

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