The Chief Probation Officers of Califronia (CPOC), through Marin Probation Chief Michael Daly, issued a press release arguing that the new resources made available to them under AB109, are increasing the effectiveness of sentencing and reducing recidivism while increasing the effectiveness of probation rehabilitation efforts. The press release issued 12/19/12 (escaping my attention during the holliday season). describes a recent study conducted by the James Irvine Foundation, “Mandatory Supervision: The Benefits of Evidence Based Supervision under Public Safety Realignment”
“The good news is that probation departments have been utilizing evidence-based practices before Realignment and that has helped us easily adapt to probation’s greater role in our new responsibilities,” said Marin Chief of Probation Michael Daly, “research has shown that conducting risk assessments, targeting specific needs of each individual and utilizing swift and certain sanctions actually work with this population..” ( CPOC Press Release)
But the Association also points out that one of the most valuable new tools of the courts and probation, Split-Sentencing is being used sparingly. The California Realignment Statute requires that a judge sentence an offender (who might have previously been sentenced to prison), to county jail, when the offense is non-violent, non-serious, or non-sexual, The court can then sentence the offender to straight county jail time or split the sentence between jail and “mandatory supervision” ( akin to probation). This is an opportunity for judges to leverage compliance with education, job training, and cognitive therapy requirements in exchange for reduced custody or other incentives. The Probation Chiefs point out that only 23% of offenders sentenced to county jail on a prison offense were given split sentences, between Oct. 2011 and June 2012. Instead, the vast majority are sentenced to county jail sentence with no possibility of community supervision.
While the tone of the report ad press release are positive, I believe the “Split Sentencng” issue is serious. Courts and criminal justice systems are overwhelmed with cases, at a time when funding continues to tighten. As the probation chiefs point out, ” the inconsistent use of split sentences in counties, can limit their ability to reduce overcrowding in their jails and lead to less favorable outcomes using incarceration alone for offenders”. To my mind , the Chiefs are arguing for a more systematic sentencing structure that takes full advantage of evidence-based sentencing processes and maximizes the leverage provided by “Split Sentencing”.