Effective October 1, 2011, California counties were expected to take over the supervision of prisoners placed on parole whose last offense was not a violent crime or a sex offense. There are certain exceptions to this rule if the offender is judged to be “high risk”. In addition, newly convicted offenders who are deemed to be non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offenders will be placed on probation or in local jails in lieu of sentences to state prison. Lower risk parole violators will be kept at the local level. These state mandated reduced levels have been ordered by the courts
In 1950, California had 4 state prison facilities and about 11,500 prisoners. By 2006, there were 33 prisons and more than 172,000 inmates! An increase of more than 900 percent.
California spends, on average, less than $9,000 per-student on k-12 public education yet spends an average nearly $47,000 to house a prisoner.
Responding to a federal court order, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a new approach, and pushing it through the Legislature two years ago to reduce California’s prison population.
Criminals convicted of felonies that were considered non-violent, non-sexual and non-serious would serve their sentences in county jails rather than state prisons. After release, they would be under the supervision of local probation officers instead of state parole agents.
This change in California’s penal system, is referred to as “realignment.” It is one of the largest experiments ever attempted in the criminal justice system. As a result the population in the state’s 33 adult prisons has dropped so much that the system now ranks second to Texas in the number of inmates, even though Texas has 12 million fewer residents.
But the change has not come without criticism.
Many law enforcement officials, victims’ rights groups and Republican lawmakers say crime has increased because of Brown’s prison realignment law, as the wave of new inmates arriving in some county jails is leading to overcrowded conditions and the early release of dangerous felons.
More than 100,000 offenders have been affected by the law, which took effect in October 2011. More than $2 billion has been allocated by the state to help local governments handle their new responsibilities of prison realignment while another $1.7 billion in state bonds is going to build more county jail space.
The State of California has spent billions of dollars in response to federal lawsuits to improve conditions in its state prisons., But these same problems are being face by local governments as county jails deal with thousands of additional inmates.
Law firms that advocate for inmates’ are now suing or threatening suits against some California counties because of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to send low-level offenders to local jails to comply with a federal court order.
These lawsuits assert that the same conditions that led to lawsuits against the state such as overcrowding, poor medical and dental care, inadequate mental health treatment — are happening at the county level.
California Department Of Corrections Report Realignment Report Download
KQED Graphic prison realignment 1 year later
KQED VIDEO- Scott Shafer