Coming soon to a jail near you: inmates, courtesy of the state of California and its new Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, aka AB 109.
On Tuesday, Mono County Interim Chief Probation Officer Tracie Neal briefed Mono County’s Board of Supervisors on the County’s Local Implementation and Post Release Supervision plan to handle perhaps a dozen or so inmates, who are to be transferred here from state prison facilities, either for incarceration, supervision or parole programs.
Neal reported that our area Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) crafted the local implementation plan, which was approved at its most recent meeting on Oct. 5.
The plan stemmed from the requirements under AB 109 the Public Safety Realignment Act. CCP drafted recommendations that allow local agencies to accommodate the new prison population under AB 109.
Signed by Governor Jerry Brown in April, AB 109 went into effect as of October of this year. The law moves persons convicted of crimes deemed “non-serious, nonviolent and nonsexual” to county jails with “some” (the keyword) of the costs paid by the state. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that gives California just two years to trim its prison population by 33,630, reducing the number of inmates to 109,805 from 143,435.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), between 1990 and 2005, California’s prison population increased by 73% and peaked in 2006, with slightly more than 172,000 offenders incarcerated. Prisons have been operating at 175% of their designed capacity, and as a consequence, the CDCR is the state’s largest agency, with an annual budget of $10 billion dollars.
The CDCR reports that parolees returning to prison or committed for a new crime accounted for only 10% of the entire inmate population in 1977. By 2009, the number had skyrocketed to 77%. In 2003, the Little Hoover Commission analysis on California state government concluded that California’s prison system was nothing short of a “billion-dollar failure.” Its unacceptable recidivism rates, coupled with prison overcrowding and exorbitant spending, led directly to the new legislation and mandated judicial action.
The court’s decision made what was a “prospect” of releasing offenders a reality. “The Supreme Court recognized that the enactment of AB 109 [in which a prison plan is laid out] is key to meeting this obligation. We must now secure full and constitutionally guaranteed funding to put into effect all the realignment provisions contained in AB 109,” Brown said after the ruling.
One of the key provisions of AB 109 provides for the shifting of minimum-security inmates and low-risk offenders to county jails or other correctional facilities.
According to Neal’s breakdown, AB 109 revenue funds include $220,093 for training and implementation, a planning grant, post-release community supervision/local incarceration, and District Attorney/Public Defender costs, distributed as follows: Probation Department $158,000; Sheriff’s Department $57,500; Department of Social Services $1,000; District Attorney $1,796.50; Public Defender $1,796.50. Inmates cost the County roughly $180 each per day to house.
The CDCR estimates Mono County’s “average daily population” (ADP) of these offenders will be approximately 4 under post-release community supervision, 1 parolee and post-release community supervision violators in jail on revocations, and another 7-8 serving mandatory supervision or full jail terms.
She said four offenders would be on post-release community supervision or probation during the first 9 months. These offenders will require the full range of supervision, sanctions and services resource available through the department, Neal added.
The new, untested recommendations are seen as “works in progress,” according to Mono Sheriff Rick Scholl, who agreed with Neal that there will be refining of policies and procedures to “kick the tires, and find out what works and what doesn’t.”
Scholl also said the exact inmate figures Mono County can expect are subject to fluctuation. Further impact to the County is also expected due to “new sentencings” that have yet to hit the state system. Those figures, he added, are also “unknown quantities.”
County Counsel Marshall Rudolph said that he is in contact with various colleagues’ offices in other counties, as well as the California State Association of Counties, to explore other legal remedies, should those become necessary, including possible ballot measures that could be put before state voters. “Right now, it is the law,” noted Board Chair Hap Hazard. “We’re driving blindfolded, but we are trying to peek out from under blindfold.”
Neal said state funding dollars are only guaranteed for 9 months, though Gov. Brown is said to be working on a proposed Constitutional amendment to make that money a more permanent part of the state budget.