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Myths vs. Facts -- Clearing up the realignment debate

As counties start preparing for the impact of criminal justice realignment (AB 109), it is important to clarify some common misconceptions about what will actually happen on October 1, 2011. 

Governor Brown's realignment plan is directly tied to the May 23, 2011 Supreme Court decision to reduce prison-overcrowding, as it focuses on the same population of non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual offenders.  Initial reactions to the decision were based in fear and uncertainty.  For example, Justice Alito, "feared that the order to reduce the number of inmates 'will lead to a grim roster of victims.'"  What is less often explained are the details on the number and type of offender affected by the order.  Without comprehensive knowledge of the court order or awareness of the plan to transition this population, public concern is understandable and expected. 

As of July 1, 2011, when the Governor's realignment plan officially received budget allocations, counties have begun making plans to deal with this population on the local level.  Realignment deals with the overcrowding of the state prison system by asking the question,

"Who actually belongs in prison?"

The Supreme Court decision to reduce prison overcrowding, by 33,000 inmates will bring capacity down to 137%.  The decision to decrease by this amount is intentional and is based on the 47, 000 inmates who are currently housed in California state prisons for less than 120 days.  A majority of this population was sentenced to state prison on parole violations, instead of being held at the county level.  Additionally, the population to be re-aligned to the local level are those categorized as non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual offenders, such as offenders serving time for low level property offenses and drug possession. 

The Facts (to take effect after October 1, 2011):*

Released from State Prison:


"¢ No inmates will be released early from state prison.
"¢ California has 2 years to reduce prison population from 140,000 to 110,000
"¢ All felons currently in state prison will continue to serve their entire sentence in state prison.
"¢ Counties will not supervise: 3rd strike offenders, serious or violent offenders, high-risk sex offenders, mentally disordered offenders, or offenders on parole prior to October 1 (they will remain under state supervision).

Community post-release supervision:


"¢ Once they have served their State Prison sentence, individuals with current non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual offenses will be supervised by the county.
"¢ Maximum time under local post-release supervision will continue to be 3 years, with opportunities to terminate earlier if no probation violations.

Parole:


"¢ Parole violators will be supervised in county jails (maximum of 180 days) rather than state prisons (except for those persons previously sentenced to a term of life).
"¢ Parole revocations will be heard locally.

Jail reduction measures:


"¢  Certain low-risk pre-trial inmates may be released on electronic monitoring while awaiting trial, under the supervision of the county.
"¢  Certain low-risk inmates sentenced to county jail may be placed on home detention, under the supervision of the county.

Additionally, counties are authorized to use a range of alternatives to incarceration, focusing on community-based services for people who are low-risk, non-violent, non-sexual offenders.  Treatment at the local level will be particularly beneficial for those with substance abuse issues. 

Each county has been allocated state funds to serve inmates locally, based on amount of current inmates sentenced to state prison. County departments may authorize additional funds.

CJCJ urges the public to share this information about the implementation of realignment and how it will serve to not only alleviate California's budget crisis, but improve the constitutional standards of care as ordered by the Supreme Court. 


Watch a video of SF Public Safety Committee discuss Realignment

Listen to today's KQED Forum on Realignment


*Facts compiled from CDCR and CCP plan.

~ Emily Luhrs
Sentencing Service Program Case Specialist

Keywords: Emily Luhrs, jails, media, non-violent, population management

Posted in Blog, Realignment

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