California’s 58 counties are expecting $5.6 billion through June 2012 to pay for Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment plan that shifts responsibility from the state to individual counties for the incarceration, treatment and parole of some offenders
FUNDED THROUGH TAX
The realignment plan is funded by extracting a portion of the state’s sales tax and an increase of $12 on the vehicle registration fee. Counties have access to an additional $602 million for new jail construction made accessible through public safety legislation passed in 2007. A special legislative session was held earlier this year to expedite the application process for this funding in response to the implementation of the realignment plan.
The state’s 2012 budget allocates $9.8 billion to its prisons, about 11 percent of an $85.9 billion budget – $224 million more than last year, but less than the record $10.1 billion of 2008.
Gov. Brown assured county officials that a constitutional amendment would be on the November 2012 ballot to guarantee realignment funding regardless of possible budgetary shortfalls.
A poll by the LA Times and University of Southern California found 80 percent of voters support realignment. Nearly 70 percent support the early release of some low-level, non-violent offenders. These offenders account for the highest recidivism rate for any category studied in California.
The poll signals that voters are frustrated with a system that spends more on prisons than colleges and universities, yet maintains a recidivism rate of 67.5 percent.
“It’s not going to work if we just go from prisons to bad jails,” said Craig Haney, a professor of the psychology of law at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is author of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report on the psychological effect of incarceration.
LACK OF SERVICES
The Prison Law Office’s Sara Norman questions whether the plan can be carried out correctly. “If the programming isn’t there, if substance-abuse treatment, job retraining, things like that, are not available to them, it could be a big mess,” she told National Public Radio.
It covers not only criminal justice, but it covers child welfare, mental health, jobs programs, and its the largest shift that we’ve ever seen in the states history
“Given that what we had was completely broken and was the most expensive, overcrowded and least effective in America, there’s some hope that this will change it,” says criminal justice professor Barry Krisberg, University of California, Berkeley.
“It covers not only criminal justice, but it covers child welfare, mental health, jobs programs, and it’s the largest shift that we’ve ever seen in the state’s history. Even so, the keystone of realignment is the reversal of the state’s tough-on-crime approach, to what state corrections officials say is a ‘smart-on-crime’ strategy,” Krisberg surmises.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate said, “Increased bed space will assist local jails in implementing much needed reforms called for in the Public Safety Realignment law.”
The realignment plan responds to the U.S. Supreme Court order to cut prison overcrowding.
Thirty-two of California’s counties also have court-imposed caps on jail populations.