Skip to main content

California counties punished for best-practices

As counties prepare for criminal justice realignment, the disparities between counties' sentencing practices become increasingly apparent.  State-dependant counties, who have higher rates of state imprisonment, have been allocated substantially more funding than self-reliant counties.  Rather than basing the funding allocation on county crime rates, the funding formula is based on the number of low-level offenders each county currently has in state prison.  There is no doubt counties will need financial support from the state as responsibility for lower level offenders shifts to the local level, but why should self-reliant counties be punished for exercising non-incarceration alternatives at the local level and saving state taxpayer dollars?

Both San Francisco and Alameda counties will receive dramatically less funding, $5.8 million and $9.2 million, respectively, while San Bernardino is receiving $25.8 million from the state.  Chief Probation Officers Wendy Still of San Francisco and David Muhammad of Alameda are disappointed with the legislature's allocation of funds because they feel their counties are being subjected to an unfair funding allocation, rather than rewarded for utilizing best-practices and promoting rehabilitation over incarceration.  San Francisco, a self-reliant county, saved taxpayers between $147 and $278 million in 2010 for their non-incarceration alternatives, as  demonstrates. 

Chief Still's August 18th press release  calls on the CA legislature to reassess the current formula, as the county needs an additional $8.3 million to fully implement their realignment plan.  She states that restructuring the formula for counties "would not only allow innovative counties to become model blueprints and hubs of technical assistance for other counties, it would also incentivize state-dependent counties to pursue more effective local criminal justice practices."

Alameda county, with a similar population and crime rate as San Bernardino county, will be dealing with an increased caseload after October 1st, and even though the influx will be smaller than San Bernardino's, the current funding will not be enough to properly supervise them.  Chief Muhammad indicates "Currently 15,000 people are on probation in Alameda County. Eleven thousand of them don't have probation officers because of a lack of staffing and funding."  For effective supervision, focused on rehabilitation, the caseload of each probation officer should not exceed 50 people, envisions Chief Muhammad.  The allotted funding is not sufficient, but the probation office has plans to work with many community agencies for support to fully meet the needs of each client.

In order to promote cost-saving measures in other California counties, the state should incentivize counties to pursue innovative rehabilitative programming by promoting model counties', such as San Francisco and Alameda's, best practices.

Keywords: best practices, Emily Luhrs, local policy

Posted in Blog, Realignment

California Stentencing Institute screenshot

California Sentencing
Institute (CASI)

Explore how California’s 58 counties send their residents to correctional institutions with interactive maps, charts, and downloadable data.

Connect with us

      YouTube

Contribute to CJCJ

Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.

Join our mailing list

Get regular updates and news delivered to your inbox. We won’t share your information with anyone else.