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.
The Corrections Standards Authority today approved $602,881,000 in funds for jail construction projects in 11 counties, the second phase in what’s now a $1.2 billion investment in county jails.
Los Angeles will receive $100 million, as will Riverside and Orange counties. Smaller grants will go to Santa Barbara, Tulare, Stanislaus, Kings, Shasta, Sutter, Madera, and Imperial counties.
Originally authorized in 2007 under AB 900, the allocations were recently kicked into gear to help counties deal with increased responsibility for low-level offenders under AB 109, the state’s prison realignment plan.
By Nicole Jones
A lawsuit filed Wednesday by lawyers for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and two other nonprofits aims to protect the voting rights of thousands of convicted California felons.
Currently, convicted felons who are serving time in state prison or who are on parole cannot vote under California law. But the lawsuit, filed at the First District Court of Appeal, claims this does not apply to felons who serve their sentences in county jails. Last fall, California realigned the criminal justice system, transferring the custody of low-level felons to county supervision to help reduce overcrowding in state prisons.
Yesterday, in San Francisco’s Superior Court, a judge heard motions in the case of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Mirkarimi is accused of domestic violence, in the wake of a fight with his wife on New Year’s Eve that prosecutors say got physical.
Mirkarimi’s not the only one having trouble in his new job. A number of local criminal justice officials are on rocky ground in the Bay Area. I sat down with KALW’s Holly Kernan to discuss these and other happenings in the public safety world.
By Nicole Jones
A new bill is on the block would allow counties to use AB 109 funds to pay for out-of-state contracts to house inmates, similar to how the states currently contract with other states. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson and Senator Tony Strickland introduced the bill in hopes of giving counties more options for housing inmates sentenced to local jails. Jackson spoke with KALW’S Nicole Jones on why he thinks this is a smart move for overburdened counties.
NOTE: This bill is not endorsed by the LA’s District Attorney’s office, but rather by Jackson as a private citizen, who’s also running for Los Angeles District Attorney.
Criminal justice realignment is changing the way probation officers are managing offenders, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Motivational interviewing is reemerging in probation offices across the state as a tool to better prepare probationers for reentry. Studies show that motivational interviewing and other techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and positive client development will prevent inmates from becoming repeat offenders. But it all starts with teaching probation officers a less punitive, more collaborative approach to dealing with offenders.
Yesterday, officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation travelled to Chowchilla in the Central Valley to talk to locals about the pending conversion of Valley State Prison for Women into a men’s facility. Chowchilla, the closest town to two of the state’s three women’s prisons, has resisted the conversion, worried about the impact of bringing in thousands of male prisoners. CDCR, meanwhile, says that under realignment, the female prison population will drop so much that they won’t need all three women’s prisons. Joshua Emerson Smith covers Chowchilla as part of his job as a McClatchy Reporter with Merced Sun Star and Chowchilla News. Emerson Smith was at yesterday’s meeting and we checked in with him to find out what went down. You can also read his report on the meeting here.
The previous year was a huge one for criminal justice in California, and 2012 promises to be just as dramatic. This year we’ll see the continued fallout of California’s prison overcrowding crisis, which coupled with the state’s financial crisis, is opening the doors to reforms never thought possible in our state. Here are three big issues to watch this coming year.