Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing major changes in California’s criminal justice system by reducing probation to two years and boosting rehabilitation programs for offenders.
Newsom said the change is aimed at cutting costs and reducing recidivism.
He said he proposes spending “an unprecedented amount of money” — $210 million over four years – in rehabilitation programs early in the probation period, where they are believed most effective, The Associated Press reported Jan. 11.
The plan sets probation at a maximum of two years, down from five for felonies and three for misdemeanors.Probation officers support the change but police chiefs are opposed.
Longer probation terms allow officers to search offenders, their homes and vehicles to find drugs, weapons, stolen items or other evidence, said Ron Lawrence, president of the California Police Chiefs Association. According to him, this tends to reduce crimes.
Lawrence said his group opposes changes that would lessen accountability. “Lessening the tail on probation would frankly lessen that accountability.”
Support is voiced by the Chief Probation Officers of California. The group agrees that focusing on rehabilitative services is the best way to help change their behavior and reduce re-offense.”
“The data and the evidence and the science bears out,” Newsom said. “You front load services – those first 18 months are determinative. He said the change was prompted by a major increase in car burglaries following passage of a proposition that reclassified some felonies as misdemeanors.
“This goes directly to the car break-ins, this goes to the petty crime issue, this should be celebrated by the law enforcement community because of the intensity of services we want to provide,” Newsom said.
Longer duration of supervision not only costs money,” he said, “For small petty things you throw people back in the system and that cycle of violence perpetuates itself.”
The reform group Californians for Safety and Justice points out that ten times as many offenders are sentenced to probation than to prison but probation receives only a fraction of the funding.