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Implementation problems highlighted in a recent Sacramento Bee editorial stand to undermine California’s criminal justice realignment efforts. Most notably, the composition of county-level Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) committees has been called into question. 

Voting members of these committees are as follows: chiefs of probation and police, the public defender, the presiding judge of the Superior Court, the sheriff, and one social services worker or drug/​alcohol abuse counselor. Other stakeholders (e.g., representatives from community-based organizations providing corrections services and county officials) sit on these committees, but cannot vote. 

CCP committees, therefore, are “…skewed toward representation by county departments with a stake in maintaining the status quo — not in changing conditions to reduce re-offense rates.” In a previous blog post, CJCJ discussed the potential for expensive jail expansions should incarceration be favored over community corrections at the county level. The current composition of CCP committees favoring law enforcement raises the specter of just such a scenario. 

Equally troubling is the fact that while California’s prisons and jails confine disproportionately high numbers of men and boys of color relative to the state’s overall population, there is no mandate for CCP committees to reflect this in their own composition. 

Implementation and evaluation efforts by CCP committees are further hampered by the lack of legislative mandate for standardized performance measurements. While this does not mean CCP committees fail across the board to act responsibly and in good faith, it does highlight the need for strong accountability measures. 

Considering the Bee’s criticisms along with those of CJCJ and other advocates, it is clear that CCP committees need to evolve in order to best serve the state’s overall realignment plan. 

Concerning composition of county committees, more community corrections providers and people of color should be included as voting members. This would address both racial underrepresentation and acknowledge the preference for fiscally and practically sound alternative sentencing efforts as central to California’s realignment plan. Furthermore, including formerly incarcerated individuals on CCP committees – in much the same manner as the San Francisco Reentry Council–stands to provide CCP committees with valuable input regarding policy and implementation from those who have experienced the criminal justice system from the inside. 

In light of Governor Brown’s recent veto of AB 2031, which would have further increased law enforcement presence on county CCP committees, a restructuring of CCP committee composition seems particularly well timed. In addition, evaluative measures must be instituted to enhance accountability and assure compliance with provisions of SB 678 requiring that funds allocated to CCP committees be spent on evidence-based community corrections practices and programs.” These actions would aid CCP committees in positioning themselves as both effective representatives and supporters of their communities. 

~ S. Patrick WynneCJCJ Communications and Policy