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Governor visits county, hears impact of prison realignment
gov visit
Governor Jerry Brown and Sheriff Adam Christianson speak with Dr. Michael Atinsky, the programs coordinator for the Sheriffs Custody and Community Institute of Life Skills at the Public Safety Center, during the governor's visit on Monday. - photo by Photo Contributed

California Gov. Jerry Brown stopped in Stanislaus County Monday afternoon to talk with local officials on the impacts of the prison realignment program at the county level.

In particular, the governor discussed the funding formula of prison realignment, also referred to as AB 109.

Signed into law in 2011, AB 109 altered the state’s responsibility of certain felons as a means to lessen the overcrowding on California’s prisons. It transfers custodial duties of non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offenders to the county level. It also calls for more home detention programs for low level offenders and day for day credits. It does not transfer prison inmates to the county, but it has caused an increase of inmates at the county level and with that the added expenses of housing them.

“We were proud to host the governor in Stanislaus County and to show him that we are taking productive steps in the implementation of realignment,” stated Sheriff Adam Christianson.  “We were all impressed by not just the amount of time he spent with us, but his serious consideration of our discussion.”

California’s realignment is funded through a dedicated portion of the state sales tax revue and vehicle license fees. The funds are disbursed through a formula that is calculated in part by weighing the county’s population with the estimated average daily population of offenders meeting AB 109 criteria.

Gov. Brown told Stanislaus County officials he recognized the county is not getting its fair share of realignment funding and supported the implementation of creative alternatives that would provide more needed programs without increasing costs.

“The governor heard our message and was very engaged, candid and showed great concern for our challenges,” Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa said.  “But, we also shared there is a long way to go as Stanislaus County and a number of valley counties struggle with lack of adequate funding for implementation of realignment.”

During his visit Gov. Brown went to the District Attorney’s Office where Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager led a roundtable discussion of county elected officials and public safety leaders who discussed realignment details. The governor then travelled to Ceres to visit the new 16-bed Stanislaus County Psychiatric Health Facility that will be used for short-term inpatient psychiatric care for county residents.  Sheriff Christianson then led the governor on a tour of Unit 2 of the Public Safety Center.

At the Public Safety Center, the governor saw first-hand how programs such as the Sheriff’s Custody and Community Institute of Life Skills were designed to help break cycles of addiction and to help men and women develop better decision making and coping skills.  The governor had an impromptu meeting with the nearly 20 inmates who were in the middle of a Life Skills class and spoke with them about why they were incarcerated.  Gov. Brown asked the group by a show of hands how many of them had a drug or alcohol problem that led to their incarceration, and all but one hand in the room was raised.

Gov. Brown stopped in Stanislaus County after attending the funeral in Fresno for two California Highway Patrol officers killed last week in a crash on Highway 99.