May 20, 2011 | Julie Small | KPCC
California’s prison system holds 162,000 inmates. By the end of June the United States Supreme Court could uphold an order to cut that number by nearly 40,000. The justices are hearing a California appeal of a lower court order to end prison overcrowding. If the state loses the appeal, no one’s sure what prison officials will do, but the solution might be Governor Brown’s recently enacted “realignment plan” (AB109) to shift thousands of inmates from state prisons to county jails. KPCC’s Julie Small looks at how “realignment” would work.
Governor Brown’s “realignment” plan shifts non-violent, low-level offenders from state prison to the county supervision. They’d serve time in local jails, or on house arrest, or in community service or rehab programs. Counties would also house all but a few juvenile offenders. And counties would supervise parolees who’d served time in state prison for non-violent, low-level offenses.
But Secretary of Corrections Matthew Cate emphasizes that under “realignment,” no one will get out of prison early.
“Everybody who’s in prison now stays in prison” says Cate. “Everybody who’s on state parole now stays on state parole. This is all what does it look like in the future.”
In the future the caseloads of state parole officers would be reduced by tens of thousands of ex-convicts. Counties would supervise them. State parole officers would focus on high-risk ex-cons – including sex offenders and violent criminals. And only high-risk, ex-cons would be sent back to state prison for parole violations. That’s how other states do it.
Secretary Cate says while state parole officers watch the high-risk offenders, the counties will focus on getting low-risk offenders the help they need to stay out of trouble.
“Part of this investment will be to provide county probation and county sheriffs with a big chunk of money to get these offenders into programs that have been working locally to try to shrink the size of the pie. We just can’t afford to continue to have so many offenders fail.”
Many local law enforcement officials agree with “realignment” in principle.
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