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SALINAS, Calif.- In exactly one month, a dramatic shift in public safety will start in California. AB109 takes effect on October 1, 2011. It is Governor Jerry Brown's public safety realignment plan which transfers a lot of power over criminals from the state down to counties. Monterey County leaders say they are under a major time crunch to implement the plan.
In response, the governor's office provided this statement:
"This is an incredible undertaking and CDCR will continue to work closely with counties on implementation. AB 109 was passed by the legislature on March 17 and signed into law by the Governor on April 4. Counties' need for time to prepare for implementation was immediately recognized, which is why the implementation date was adjusted from July 1 to October 1. That leaves 6 months between the time the bill was signed into law and its operative date."
A group called the Community Corrections Partnership is charged with working on the logistics for Monterey County. The group has been meeting every Monday since late April to brainstorm and draft up a plan that is not ready yet. The group is made up of every department that will play a role in the realignment including the Chief Probation Officer, the District Attorney, the Sheriff, and the Chief Deputy of the Monterey County jail.
One of the group's biggest concerns is that the jail is already overcrowded. "Last night I had 1000 in custody and I'm only board rated for 829 beds.", said Chief Deputy of Corrections Jeff Budd. He says the overcrowding will become an even more serious problem come October 1, 2011 because where non violent, non serious, non sexual criminals are sentenced to will change. "Anybody with 3 years or less will wind up staying here as opposed to going to state prison.", Budd added. Monterey County leaders estimate it will mean approximately 30 more mandatory inmates a month adding to crowded quarters.
Budd believes it will likely mean the early release of less serious offenders. "I just don't have the room.", he said. The weight of possibly choosing who will get an early pass out of lockup makes him cringe. "It's not going to run through my head it's going to run through my stomach because I'll wonder if we picked the right guy to let out. Will he hurt someone while he's out? Hopefully not.", Budd added.
While the load at the jail will increase, so will the work load for Monterey County Chief Probation Officer Manuel Real who is concerned the legislation takes effect just one month from now. "No it's not enough time, but it's what we are confronted with and we have to get it done.", Real said. Real needs to hire two probation officers in the next month, but says he still has a lot of unanswered questions from the state. Real says because of AB109, his department will be taking over parole duties for approximately 30 prisoners a month exiting the system to Monterey county. "While the state is calling them low level offenders, that may be for the department of corrections but from our point of view, they're serious high risk offenders.", he added.
Real points to the fact that the parolees will be people who have failed probation multiple times in the past or committed a serious enough crime to get prison time. According to Real, "It's a real challenge and a very legitimate public safety concern at this point."
Part of the goal of AB109 is to reduce the rate of criminals who reoffend. It's the idea that that local governments can better connect parolees and other criminals to programs proven to reduce recidivism rates. "The challenge is for us to do better, but the difficulty is I don't believe we have sufficient funding to do the things we feel are necessary." Real said.
According to Governor Jerry Brown's office, the state of California is providing counties $400 million in 2011-2012 to implement AB109 in the first year of realignment. Funding for AB109 grows to over $1 billion within three years. Real says a month away, the full numbers are still unclear. Real says there is about 150 thousand for start up funds, approximately 270 thousand for training and about 3.8 million for the initial year in Monterey County. "While that may sound like a lot of money, it doesn't go very far. That's divided between the jail, supervision, and treatment programs.", Real added. "The state has really bamboozled us and wound up paying us 1/3 of the money for 100 percent of the job.", said Jeff Budd.
Budd says before he's forced in to releasing an inmate early. He and the probation department will try to create some jail space with a focus on pretrial services. They will identify accused criminals during booking that will get to wait for their day in court at home with something like GPS monitoring instead of lock up. "I've asked the courts to go ahead and release all misdemeanors in custody.", Budd said. He is hoping to rent or buy temporary trailer units and put them outside on current jail property but says it won't happen anytime soon. Budd calls AB109 "the Governor's get back on the counties.". AB109 also means parolees to go under county supervision who violate parole won't go back to prison but will instead go to the county jail. County leaders say it compounds the crowding issue.
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