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Realignment deals with 40,000 convicted felons

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POSTED October 14, 2013 11:50 p.m.

It sounded like a decent deal.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – which was housing 70 percent more inmates than its prisons were designed for – had to either find a way to supervise the release of 40,000 convicted felons or a panel of judges would open the gates.

So in order to keep a handle on who actually walked past the walls, California adopted Assembly Bill 109 – the “realignment” bill – that would send the 40,000 inmates to jails in counties where they would serve a combination of the remainder of their sentence and supervised release.

The State of California would pay for all of it.

The only catch was that in order to sell it, and get the California State Sheriff’s Association, the Chief Probation Officers of California and the California Police Chief’s Association onboard, that funding would have to be secure.

And it wasn’t.

When the state played fast-and-loose with the funding, San Joaquin County Sherriff Steve Moore, as Undersheriff John Picone told the Manteca TEA Party Patriots last week, teamed up with Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson and the Sacramento County Sherriff. They attempted to lobby their organization to pull support unless the state was willing to step forward and put up the necessary funding to expand the county jails in such a manner that would allow for the program to succeed.

The funding was eventually included in California’s 2011 budget.

In order for somebody to qualify for realignment, they must be considered “non-violent and non-sexual” in their crime and also be considered low-risk. In order for San Joaquin County to qualify for the funding, Picone said, there had to be a plan in place to expand the current size of the jail without doctoring the number of beds that are available.

By doing so, the facility would be able to receive inmates from CDCR that have to serve a remainder of their sentence before being paroled to supervised release while at the same time handling traditional county jail operations. Traditional county jail sentences last up to a year.

A big portion of what the county expects to handle through the program, Picone said, are parole violators that would traditionally be sent back to prison. Because space is limited (California’s prisons are still technically 30,000 beds above the 100,000 they were designed to accommodate – even after the realignment program was complete).

A large portion of the realignment funding also went to the county probations department to track offenders once they’ve been released from custody. Use of GPS monitoring devices were one of the initial upgrades presented to the Board of Supervisors when the plan was initially being implemented, and traditional monitoring techniques are also utilized.

The program has come under fire by some advocates that claim that in order to make room for inmates that are being sent from state prisons, those being arrested locally for property crimes won’t be viewed as a priority.

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