The ACLU of California released a report today, “California at a Crossroads,” detailing 53 California counties’ realignment plans. Prison realignment began in October of 2011 as a way to quickly reduce California’s prison population–and get the state into compliance with a federal court order to relieve the state’s overcrowded prisons. Reform advocates had hoped that counties, which are slated to take over some 33,000 offenders from the state over the next couple of years, would use their realignment dollars in innovative rehabilitation programs. Instead, the ACLU report says, many counties are choosing to add more jail beds to incarcerate those who would have previously gone to state prison.
California recently approved $1.2 billion to help counties build jails, with the largest allocations going to Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange counties.
At the time, Bill Sessa, a public information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said some of the counties applying for jail money are overcrowded and in need of additional capacity. One county, he said, currently houses jail inmates in dorms, and isn’t equipped to house felons for the longer sentences they receive.
Sessa said that while realignment is designed to spur an increased focus on rehabilitation, “no matter how much rehabilitation you incorporate into the system, you still need capacity. And there are counties that have undersized jails.”
In their report, the ACLU agreed that many county jails are overcrowded. But they pointed to the fact that about 71 percent of California’s jail population is composed of those awaiting trial–meaning people who have been charged with a crime, but either cannot afford bail, or are being held by the jail as a risk to public safety if released.
Find the full report here.