Tulare County reports its jail system has benefited greatly from California’s Realignment legislation, which changed incarceration of low-level offenders from state prisons to county jails.
The AB 109 legislation has provided funds for more than 160 programs designed to reduce recidivism. That includes parenting classes, education, vocational, mental health and substance abuse programs, the Visalia Times Delta reported in July.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
“Tulare County is very unique,” said Christie Myer, Tulare County’s chief probation officer. “AB 109 gave us the ability to do it.”
An average of more than 555 offenders are being housed. “A huge population was sent to their county of jurisdiction. The prison population is going to decrease while we increase,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Timothy Fosnaugh,
To track the progress of inmates’ program successes, the Vera Institute of Justice started the Incarcerated Trends Project to advance research and help guide changes by providing accessible information on the average number of people in jail and prison for every county in the nation.
“Until now, there hasn’t been a nationwide data set to examine whether, and how, state prison and jail trends relate to one another,” said project lead Chris Henrichson. “While this data alone can’t explain why trends diverge, it’s now clear that they often do.”
“Policy makers and the public must look at both prison and jail population to measure the success of reform efforts,” he added.
The available research and policy data on mass incarceration is focused on the state-level numbers, but doesn’t provide the detail needed to help lawmakers reduce the numbers of incarcerated people, Henrichson said.
The last 90 days of an inmate’s sentence are spent in a transitional program, which helps prepare for re-entry into society. The program connects prisoners with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security office and certain housing opportunities.
“We are working really hard to help them be more successful upon release,” said Fosnaugh.
“Examining the number of county residents in prison and jail puts the difficult problem of 2.2 million Americans behind bars in local context that can inform the conversation on changes we want in our communities,” said Jacob Kang-Brown, a senior associate.
Ironically, studies showed incarceration rates are highest in small counties as opposed to the largest cities. Counties with the highest rates included: Kings, Lake, Tehama, Tulare and Shasta.
In addition, Tulare has one of the lowest straight-sentencing rates in the state, with about 33 percent of the jail population serving 14-month full sentences.