By DAVID MARSH
Editor’s Note: David Marsh was a staff writer for the San Quentin News for two years until his release on parole in June 2010. He is now a reporter and columnist for the weekly Valley Voice newspaper.
I guess it’s time to for me to live up to the commitment that I made when I left San Quentin in June of last year. I said I’d occasionally submit articles for publication in the San Quentin News, so here is one.
I am reviving “As I See It…” in the pages of your newspaper. I am also using the name “As I See It…” in the pages of our local weekly newspaper, The Valley Voice. I am a featured columnist for our weekly paper and my column has been carried on the front page. It’s not much money, but plenty of local exposure.
The S.Q. News is where I got my journalism “start.” Thanks to Joan, John and Steve, advisers extraordinaire. And thanks to Michael, Aly, and Luke for tolerating me. Special thanks to Arnulfo for being my good friend when I needed one.It bears noting that the first three columns I have written for The Valley Voice have each been on the AB 109 fallout and how it is affecting our counties.
I recently spent two hours interviewing our county’s probation chief, who is very much informed (as much as anybody CAN be) about the up-to-date rules and regulations concerning AB 109. Now, keeping in mind that the legislators in Sacramento are at this moment rewriting some of the language of what has to be one of the most ill thought-out pieces of legislation in our lifetimes! And that, gents, is NO exaggeration.
Anyway, my whole purpose in writing this piece is to share with you those things that I have learned about AB 109 in these past few weeks, a very considerable amount of info that pertains to a great many of you.
Almost everybody in H Unit will be affected by the new rules under AB 109, and a good many of you in North Block. Anybody who paroles after Oct. 1 should pay close attention here.
None of you are “non-non-nons” (non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders. Cause non-non-nons are the classification given to those who are sentenced to the county jails after Oct. 1, in lieu of prison.
Anyone who paroles from San Quentin after Oct. 1, who qualifies as a non-serious, non-violent and non-serious sex offender, will be released to county supervision as a “post release community supervision offender,” or PRCSO. This is a whole new classification of post-release offenders who will not be considered as normal probationers, nor subject to the usual terms and conditions of county probation.
The non-non-nons released from the county jails, however, will be treated as regular probationers. Sounds a bit confusing, I know, but if you read it through carefully a time or two, this will begin to make a little sense to you.
As PRCSOs, most of you will be offered the opportunity to give the county six months clean and trouble free, and you will be subject to early termination of your supervision status. Meaning you’re done!
If you mess up, or your supervising probation officer even thinks you’re about to mess up, you are subject to a 10-day “flash-incarceration” term in the county jail. No set limit on “flash incarceration” terms. Here’s the kicker, which many of you will probably find appealing. If you get “violated,” then the most that you can receive is 180 days in the county lock-up, with half-time.
After serving the 90-day-term, then you are released entirely from supervision. No more PRCSO status! Done! Over! At no time following your release from San Quentin are you subject to a possible return to prison. County jail only! Period! Short of committing a new beef, that is.
Your status upon release from prison is determined by the controlling case for which you were incarcerated. Those with violence, serious offenses or sex offenses can expect to be released to regular parole supervision as it has always been. Those who qualify as “PRCSOs” face a whole new set of post-release supervision rules, considerably softer, and designed to cut into the astronomical recidivism rates which have plagued the CDCR for so many years.
In my new status as a free-world press reporter (and still a current parolee), I have been attending the weekly meetings of our local Community Corrections Partnership Committee (of which the Sheriff, DA, Probation Chief, County Executive, Public Defender, Chief-of-Police, etc. are all members) and they even permit me to ask all the questions I want. And believe me, I have many. And they answer each of them.
Each county is required under AB 109 to form a CCPC, and each must conform to the same set of rules which I have briefly outlined here for you. The rules don’t change from county to county, from Tulare County (mine) to liberal San Francisco County. The rules are set by the state.
One final note here. Don’t expect much in the way of rehabilitation and opportunities for ex-felons when you hit the gates. By the time each of the counties’ CCPCs have divided up the pot of money each county has received from the state, at the bottom of the funnel is the substance abuse programming and housing providers. As you probably already figured, not much of that money, at all, made it to the bottom.
That’s not merely “As I See It…,” those are the cold, hard facts!