CVAA response to Viewpoints: Realignment doesn’t lead to early release. Published Oct. 13, 2012 – Sacramento Bee

Posted on October 22, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This past Sunday the Bee ran an editorial on AB 109, claiming that critics of the new law were wrong in claiming AB 109 is a significant contributor to the rising crime rate and the early release from custody of county inmates.  The editorial authors claim that AB 109 is being vilified, when in actuality it is a positive change in the criminal justice system.  The authors stated that crime was NOT on the rise because of AB 109 and that criminals were not being released early because of this law.

 

This editorial was insulting and dismissive of the real Facts.

 

The facts are that after several years of a steady decrease in crime

rates, crime IS on the rise. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/09/4708245/sacramento-city-county-see-crime.html.  Interestingly, the first significant crime rate increase in nearly two decades occurred at the same time AB 109 was implemented in California.

 

Criminals ARE being released early from county jails because there

simply isn’t room for them now that criminals who were once housed in

prisons are being forced on county jails.  While most counties are not releasing AB 109 offenders early, they are releasing their non-AB 109 offenders after serving a small fraction of their court ordered sentence or they are being placed directly on electronic home monitoring without serving any custody time.

 

Also, lets not forget that the term non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offender is a misnomer.  There are plenty of crimes, like felony domestic violence, that are violent in nature, but are not considered so under AB 109.  In addition, the “non” only applies to the criminal’s current offense.  There are many sex offenders and other violent criminals that are being classified as “non” under AB 109 who should really be spending time in prison.

 

The authors of this editorial are biased against AB 109’s critics. One of the authors is Joan Petersilia who has been on contract with the State since the Schwarzenegger administration.  She was hired to find ways to reduce the state’s prison population.  Her job is to reduce the state’s prison population, not to assist local governments managing of their jail population.

 

Let’s take a look at the author’s claims.

 

1)    Despite mischaracterizations of realignment as “early release,” the law and its implementation have not resulted in the early release of a single person from state prison.

This is NOT what critics are saying.  Critics (law enforcement, District Attorneys, victim advocates) of AB 109 are pointing out the fact that AB 109 has resulted in early release of criminals from County Jails!  Counties are under court mandates, just like the State, that cap the number of inmates they can house.  Because AB 109 limits the list of crimes that a person can go to prison for and parole violators must now serve their time in county jails rather than prison, our county jails are becoming overcrowded.  Because of this shift of inmates from the State to the counties, the jails are releasing inmates and defendants awaiting trial early.  It’s in the papers all across the state.   The problem is so bad it made national news – here is an article about early release from jails in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/06/us/in-california-prison-overhaul-county-jails-face-bigger-load.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

 

2)    Counties do receive state funds to carry out additional offender management responsibilities under realignment.  State leaders provided $850 million for California’s 58 counties in the 2011(-2012 fiscal year) and an additional $1 billion for the 2012-13 fiscal year. 

If the Governor’s tax proposal does not pass this November, it is unclear as to how the State will be able to continue to financially support the Counties.  Without a guaranteed source of revenue to fund our local government’s new responsibilities under AB 109, it is quite possible that it will wind up in the hands of each county to figure out how to pay for the State’s dumping of prisoners on the counties.

 

3)    We now know that using data and technology to track crime patterns, combined with risk assessment tools, swift and certain consequences for offenders, and the use of programs proven to reduce recidivism work better than old ways of thinking.

Yes, these systems may work – but it isn’t what is being used in California.  All of these programs take money, which the counties and the State don’t have at this time.  In addition, the risk assessment tools being used are flawed and computer programs cannot evaluate risks as well as a trained parole agent or sheriff’s deputy.  CVAA has been told that parole agents are not allowed to override the decision of the risk assessment tool.  So if something comes up as a red flag while looking through a criminals file (criminal history), it must be ignored.

 

Swift and certain consequences are not happening under AB 109.  As stated above, there is no room for criminals in county jails.  Some counties have stopped prosecuting certain misdemeanor crimes because they don’t have the resources.  And, in many counties the AB 109 programs that have been implemented are not working as expected.   Most criminals will not attend treatment programs voluntarily.  In the past these programs were mandated and there were consequences for not attending – like going back to prison for up to a year.  Now there are no longer any real consequences for not attending treatment programs.  Under AB 109 the maximum punishment for violating parole is 90 days (counting good time credits) in the county jail, and the average confinement is only 60 days.  In some counties the average confinement is even less because of overcrowded jails.  Without real consequences anymore, parole agents have told CVAA that criminals are simply walking away from, or never attending treatment programs.

 

So, what we have under AB 109 is a perfect storm.  Criminals are not being held accountable for their actions.  There are fewer resources available to house and monitor criminals throughout the state at both the State and the local level.  Crime is on the rise.  Innocent people have been killed because of AB 109 flaws.  Yet, proponents of AB 109 continue to state that it is working.  You cannot disregard the facts.  AB 109 is a dangerous law.

 

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