Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan called Realignment is aimed at reducing prison overcrowding by redirecting low-level offenders away from state prisons and into county jails.
The plan leaves mostly high-risk offenders serving time in state prisons. Prison officials have shifted more of their resources into rehabilitative programs for one group of these high risk offenders.
However, the shift is bad news for another group of inmates: offenders serving life sentences in state prisons who are excluded from most of these programs. And it is exactly these programs that the parole board wants inmates to take in order to demonstrate insight into past bad behavior and a change from criminal to pro-social thinking.
Meeting the academic needs of non-lifers, inmates serving long determinate sentences, is the focus of the shifting priorities, according to a PowerPoint presentation presented by Elizabeth Siggins, Senior Advisor for Rehabilitative Programs. Priority is given to this group of inmates’ need for academic achievements with the goal of obtaining a GED, or to enroll in college.
TOWN HALL EVENT
Prompt admittance into reentry programs “within the last year prior to release” is a main concern of the plan, according to the presentation. “The programs are designed to meet 70 percent of the state’s inmates who need substance abuse treatment, anger management and job training,” said official spokesman for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Bill Sessa.
Sessa attended a town hall meeting in Oakland, last year to address some of the public concerns about the impact of Realignment on local communities.
“The goal is to provide the skills that will keep felons who spent decades in prison from re-offending,” Sessa told KQED reporter Michael Montgomery.
“Re-entry hubs will be established at designated prisons”
“Because we’ll only have serious offenders with longer sentences, we know they’ll be able to go into a rehabilitation program at the beginning—stay through it until the end and then there’ll be something waiting for them when they go out on parole,” Sessa said.
Inmates leaving prison will also be able to “obtain job readiness skills and a valid California identification card,” according to the PowerPoint presentation.
The PowerPoint presentation also stated that re-entry hubs “will be established at designated prisons to help inmates transition to the community within their last four years of incarceration.” In addition, the plan is geared to provide post-release substance abuse treatment, post-release employment programs, and post-release education services for parolees.
These programs will offer “the greatest opportunity for success in reducing recidivism and increasing public safety,” the PowerPoint presentation asserts.
Referring to whom the programs are targeting, Stanford law professor and criminologist, Joan Petersilla said, “Most of the models have never been applied to the serious offenders that we’re going to try to apply them to.” Realignment is an experiment—the public and prison officials should be aware of this fact, Petersillia concluded.