Sunday, 3 June 2012
Prison shift has Stanislaus County watching the numbers
Assessing California's far-reaching experiment with prison realignment is a numbers game for Stanislaus County authorities.
And they don't have enough numbers yet to say whether it is working.
In the eight months since responsibility began shifting from state prisons and parole to county jails and probation:
• Jails designed for lower-level offenders are receiving "more sophisticated, more violent and more manipulative (inmates) with a different set of rights and privileges," Sheriff Adam Christianson said.
• Such prisoners now make up 26 percent of the local jail population.
• To make room for them, other felons are being released early from county lockups.
• The district attorney and public defender are handling more felony cases, but can't be sure why.
• The sheriff and chief probation officer have received more money to hire more officers.
• With fewer ex-cons to watch, parole officers expect the ax eventually to fall on them.
It's a mixed bag, say local authorities who are closely watching their budgets, staffing levels and evolving legislation while trying to figure out how best to keep everyone safe.
"While I have genuine concerns, we're going to make this work," Christianson said. "We have no other choice."
Show them the money
The sheriff called realignment "bad policy" when state leaders last year decided on the radical change as a means of saving millions of dollars while also complying with federal orders to reduce prison overcrowding.
"It was rushed. It wasn't well thought out," Christianson said.
District Attorney Birgit Fladager said, "Everyone is still trying to figure it out."
This much is sure: Public safety agencies in Stanislaus County received $6.5 million from the state for the first nine months of realignment, which started in October, and they'll get $12 million more in the fiscal year starting July 1.
Read more: Modbee