California’s prison realignment program under AB 109 transferred the supervision of more than 40,000 state felons to county authorities, which has eased the state’s prison overcrowding problem, but put a new strain on local facilities.
State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) is hoping to ease some of that strain with a new bill that would allocate funds to county jails dealing with an influx of inmates.
Cannella introduced SB 144, the Realignment Reinvestment Act, which would provide additional funding for front line law enforcement, jail operations, community supervision and treatment services by reinvesting money that would have otherwise been spent in the state prison system.
The allocation of these additional funds is directly linked to the number of “realigned” offenders in each county, which Cannella says is more equitable than the current funding allocation formula.
“Prison realignment was proposed as a ‘safe and secure’ program to reduce our state prison population,” Cannella said. “Unfortunately, what has happened is we have overburdened our local jails by not providing them the resources they need to adequately deal with these criminals. When I sat down with the sheriffs in my district to discuss how the program was working, I heard frustration about being given responsibility for these criminals without the funding to keep all of them behind bars or to provide the rehabilitation services needed to turn their lives around. As a result, some of these criminals are being sent back on the street earlier than they should have and are reoffending.”
The bill was sent to the Senate’s public safety committee on Friday.
In December 2012, Senator Cannella, along with Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter) and 11 other Central Valley legislators, sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown requesting that “realignment funds target counties with higher per capita populations of AB 109 offenders.” The bipartisan letter urged the Governor to reevaluate the current funding between counties, since “if the current allocation formula continues, counties with higher numbers of AB 109 offenders will have great difficulty maintaining public safety and creating evidence-based supervision and treatment programs.” The letter also noted that counties with higher per capita populations of AB 109 offenders tend to experience higher than average crime rates and significant unemployment.
Since realignment began in October 2011, rural counties, particularly those in the Central Valley, have witnessed a clear spike in the numbers of “non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual” offenders that have been diverted to local authorities in order to minimize overcrowding at California state prisons.
“I want to see the state’s realignment program be successful. In order for it to work in Stanislaus County, we need to know that we will receive the funding necessary to set in place long-term programs to reduce recidivism,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. “Senator Cannella’s bill takes a step forward by ensuring that counties are given the funds they need to keep their communities safe.”