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County lobbies state for more money for realignment

Posted: December 17, 2013 5:25 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2013 5:25 p.m.
 

With state savings likely totaling more than $2 billion and county resources strained to provide adequate services for thousands of offenders, county supervisors voted Tuesday to ask the state to dole out more dough to fund the cost of the controversial state prison realignment program.

Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided during their meeting Tuesday to lobby for more state funding for services that have been strained by an influx of inmates under the 2011 law, which shifted responsibility for some criminals from the state to counties.

“Realignment resulted in a 25 percent increase in the jail population over the first two years of the program,” reads a board report. “The population count was 15,463 on Sept. 30, 2011, and 19,225 on Sept. 30, 2013.”

Estimates peg state savings from the program at more than $2 billion, according to Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka, while sending out less than $1 billion to California’s 58 counties to help offset the cost of the prisoner shift.

“I don’t believe this program should have saved money for the state,” Fujioka said. “They shifted a population to us; at the same time they should have shifted appropriate funding to us.”

Realignment, a major policy push of Gov. Jerry Brown that began in October 2011, shifted responsibility for some criminals whose offenses were deemed non-violent, non-sexual and non-serious in nature — so-called non-non-nons — from the state to counties.

The shift means officials in Los Angeles County have had to handle thousands of new cases on both the custody and post-release sides of the equation, including providing mental and public health services as needed.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, a frequent and vocal critic of realignment, again called for the law to be repealed Tuesday.

“The situation is one that has resulted in an escalation of property-related crime increases, not just in Los Angeles County but across the state,” Antonovich said of the law.

One of the major problems with the law, said the supervisor whose district includes the Santa Clarita Valley, is that it puts inmates into county-run jail facilities that may be insufficiently prepared to handle long-term prisoners.
Jails, Antonovich said, are “more characteristic of a motel, not a full-service hotel.”

Because the state doesn’t fully pay the cost of shifting prisoners, counties — and by extension county taxpayers — have to shoulder some of the financial burden, Antonovich said.

More than 18,000 individuals that would have normally been released under state parole have instead come to Los Angeles County under the realignment program, according to Jerry Powers, the county’s chief probation officer. About 8,000 of those cases are still active, he said Tuesday.

Recently, that number has stabilized somewhat, Powers said, and it should actually begin to decrease in future months.

On average, 16 to 18 percent of individuals released to Los Angeles County will be arrested on a new felony offense within six months of release, and about 8 percent will be arrested on a misdemeanor offense, according to Powers.

The population of non-non-nons in custody as of Nov. 30 numbered 6,190, according to Terri McDonald, an assistant sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Common charges for those arrested include burglary and narcotics-related crimes, McDonald said.

The average sentence for those offenders is 2.6 years, McDonald said, with 3,579 inmates serving sentences of less than one year.

But 42 inmates have been sentenced to terms longer than 10 years, according to McDonald.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

 

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