LATHROP – San Joaquin County Sherriff Steve Moore knows that he’s going to have to do something about the number of convicted felons that will soon start trickling into the county jail.
And he now believes that he’s armed with the game plan necessary to make the transition into the era of a new public safety realignment act – a legislatively mandated bill that requires that non-violent, non-sexual and non-serious offenders serve their sentences in local county jails rather than in one of the 33 prisons operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The bill – officially titled AB 109 – was designed to keep California in compliance with a Federal court ruling which required that 33,000 inmates from California’s prison system be released over a two-year period to alleviate overcrowding. The United States Supreme Court upheld the ruling in May.
It’s also expected to help balance California’s tumultuous budget.
Rather than directly releasing inmates, the program diverts less serious offenders – referred to as “non-non-nons” by probation and parole officers – to county jails and ramps up home confinement that relies on GPS tracking to keep tabs on culprits.
Moore laid out the scenario that the county and local law enforcement agencies are now facing at the Nov. 21 Lathrop City Council meeting to update elected officials in the area about the status of the controversial program that went into effect back in October.
Since the program went into effect six weeks ago, he said, the county has taken in 61 inmates with new sentences, and has a total of 195 AB 109 offenders in custody. They’ve processed 368 eligible inmates, and have had to release 84 in order to meet their court cap – preventing the jail from becoming overcrowded.
While the Matthews Road facility has room for 1,411 inmates, Moore says that he only has staff that can accommodate roughly 1,300.
But he’s got a plan to help offset the growing number of AB 109 offenders – with an average sentence of three years – that the county is taking in.
With the former CDCR women’s facility off Arch Road currently slated to become a re-entry facility for inmates in San Joaquin, Amador and Calaveras counties – where they’ll serve the last year of their sentence and learn skills that will better equip them to succeed outside of the walls – Moore has been talking to California Corrections Secretary Matt Cate about how San Joaquin County can get involved with that process.
Cate has indicated, Moore said, that they only have about half the number of inmates to fill the 500-bed facility, so Moore has asked to use the other half as a conjoined facility for sentenced offenders and parole violators to save space at the County Jail. He has also proposed supplying inmates back to Corrections and cover their cost at that facility, and separately pitched that the State make the necessary improvements to the complex and allow the county to operate it on its own.
Moore is sitting on an $80 million grant – with an additional $25 million coming from the county – to expand the current facility on Matthews Road and add another 1,200-plus beds. Drawings, he said, are 50 percent complete, and construction could take up to three years to complete – pressing the need to get an agreement hashed out with Cate over use of the other facility in the meantime.
The local realignment plan – spearheaded by Chief San Joaquin County Probation Officer Patty Mazzilli – is something that, Moore says, he believes will adequately deal with the supervision of released offenders, and covers all of the other needs to make sure that the county will be able to properly address the needs as they arise.
The order for an additional 150 GPS-based monitoring bracelets, added Moore, has already been placed.
While the entire concept might be a lot for residents to take in and process, Lathrop Police Chief Eric Holman assured those in Lathrop that his deputies will continue to maintain the level of service needed to ensure safety in the community.
“I know that everyone is probably in a lot of fear about this new public safety realignment act,” Holman said. “As your Chief of Police in the City of Lathrop, I want to reassure the council and the citizens of Lathrop that we’re going to provide police services here and be responsible for calls for service – I want everybody to know that.”