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San Francisco’s Executive Committee of the Community Corrections Partnership has been devising a plan for realignment and presented their model for implementation to the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee at a public hearing yesterday at City Hall. California’s Criminal Justice Realignment Bill (A.B. 109) was approved on April 4, 2011 and is set to take effect October 1, 2011. Their plan focuses on collaboration between agencies in order to best serve the new population of inmates being transferred to the county level. 

At the hearing, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi stressed how important it is to first demystify what realignment truly means” to be sure that the fear and distortion of that information is not misunderstood whatsoever.” Media coverage on realignment” has contributed to public concerns regarding the early release of inmates and the potential for added stress to communities due to already overwhelming recidivism rates (78.3% rate for parolees released to SF). The truth is, there will be no early releases of inmates and these individuals [population to be affected by realignment] are in our communities now,” remarked Chief Probation Officer Wendy Still. Motivated in part by the recent Supreme Court decision on prison overcrowding, realignment serves to shift the 33,000 triple nons”- non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual offenders who currently serve state-prison sentences of 180 or less to supervision at local level. It also means that instead of being sent back to state prison, parole violators will serve their sentence at county jails instead. 

Because of varying county practices, every California County will be affected differently. 34 counties already have insufficient local jail space because of their above-average rate of committing people to state prisons, in turn severely contributing to the overcrowding problem. 24 counties, including San Francisco County that is currently experiencing undercrowding,” have more than sufficient jail space because of their self-reliant practices. See county-by-county breakdown, here.

To prepare for the influx of inmates to be housed at the local level come October 1, 2011, some counties, such as Kings, plan to increase jail beds. Alternatively, San Francisco County is leading the way in taking a more proactive approach. Instead of simply seeking more ways to increase jail-bed capacity, the Executive Committee of the Community Corrections Partnership’s plan aims to reduce our reliance on incarceration. The District Attorney’s office asserts, we cannot go from packed state prisons to packed jails.” As outlined in the committee’s plan, they intend to hire Alternative Sentencing Planners in addition to expanding their Probation Alternatives Court. The Public Defender’s Office has created a Realignment Team to include a social worker and court alternative specialist, in addition to an attorney to assist clients affected by this legislation. Another aspect of the plan is the Community Assessment and Service Center, created by Adult Probation to improve post-release supervision by contracting with community organizations to meet specific needs of each of these individuals. You can view the entire July 21 hearing on SFGovTV.

There is no doubt realignment will burden counties, but instead of being fearful, San Francisco, along with CJCJ, views this is an incredible opportunity to collaborate with city and community agencies to improve reentry and show that incarceration should not be the only option to rehabilitation. 

~Emily LuhrsSentencing Service Program Case Specialist