Starting this weekend, under a new law, AB 109, counties will be responsible for non-violent criminals and parolees instead of the state.
The reason for the shift? The state’s prisons are “bursting with people,” The California Report’s Scott Shafer told KQED’s Mina Kim yesterday. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison population, and it’s hoped that realignment will be a prime means to do that.
But many county officials are unhappy with the shift. Alameda County’s chief probation officer, David Muhammad, for example, told Mina Kim that his staff is already overworked because of the county’s high crime rate. And said the county is getting short-changed by the state’s realignment funding formula.
“Unfortunately the way the state decided to allocate the money was to reward those counties that have sent many of their lower-level offenders to state prison,” Muhammad said, “and penalize counties like Alameda and San Francisco and Contra Costa who have sent smaller numbers of lower level offenders to state prison and have kept those offenders local.”
“Counties that are relatively liberal, that have looked for alternatives to custody, keeping people in the community,” says Scott Shafer,” they’re going to get less money from the state. Counties that send people to prison for relatively minor things, things that would now send you to a county jail under AB 109, yes they’re going to get more money because the formula is based in part on how many inmates are going to return to those communities. The state has committed to revisiting that formula, but yes, in the short term, this first ramp-up year, there’s no question that counties like Alameda and San Francisco are going to get less money than they might have otherwise.”
Additionally, a lot of counties are under federal consent decrees from the courts to cap their jail populations, Shafer says. So they will have to find ways to release prisoners to make room for the new ones coming from the state.
“People getting out of prison have tremendous problems. Many of them have mental health problems, substance abuse and alcohol problems. These will become to a certain extent the problems of the counties. They’re pushing the governor and the governor is promising to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to create a dedicated funding stream so the counties won’t be left holding the bag.”
Here is Governor Brown’s statement today on realignment.
- Prisoner release comes with a whole lot of questions for San Francisco (Ken Garcia, SF Examiner)
- California prison realignment to put more low-level offenders on streets (San Jose Mercury News)