Public Safety Realignment Questions and Answers
1. Has public safety realignment saved the state money?
Simply put, the state is actually spending $200 million more on public safety realignment year over year.
Click here to read an informative article from "California Budget Fact Check" detailing the fiscal implications of public safety realignment.
2. The Governor says that no inmates currently in state prison will be transferred to county jails or released early. Is that true?
True. However, starting October 1st, felons convicted of specified crimes that would have normally gone to state prison will now be diverted to local communities. The Governor estimates that in the first year, over 16,000 felons will be diverted into local custody.
Early Release Built in Program: What the Governor does not acknowledge is that local jails are full (over 20 counties have court ordered population caps) and this means that many of these 16,000 prisoners in 2011 will not serve jail time or will likely be subject to early release. When realignment is fully implemented, more than 52,000 felons will likely be diverted to local communities and subject to early release. With county jails currently housing 78,000 inmates, adding another 52,000 will overwhelm the system.
3. The Governor claims that all felons sent to state prison will continue to serve their entire sentence in state prison. What about prisoners sentenced to county jail, will they serve the same amount of time they would have served in state prison?
No. The Governor's plan assumes that many of these 52,000 diverted prisoners will not serve their time in jail. According to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the savings identified is dependent on a significant numbers of prisoner avoiding jail time altogether. These prisoners will be placed within the community under "community supervision or "alternative custody."
4. The Governor claims that only "low level" offenders will be shifted into local communities. Is that true?
False. California's complicated laws do not easily capture what is a serious or violent crime. It may be hard to believe, but hundreds of felonies, such as weapons possession and elder financial abuse are not considered serious or violent crimes. CDCR acknowledged the flaw in California's system when, according to their own talking points, it added "nearly 60 additional crimes that are not defined in the Penal Code as serious or violent offenses..." to the list of felons that cannot be diverted to local communities.
The proposal assumes that the following crimes are not serious or violent (partial list)
- Child abuse
- Elder financial abuse
- Hate crimes
- A second violation of a domestic violence protective order
- Identity theft
As passed, the Governor's realignment plan was so flawed that in the four months since it was signed into law, he has proposed no less than four separate "cleanup" measures. Several of these "cleanup" measures have added crimes to the list of crimes that will result in felons serving their time in state prison.
In addition to the sentencing changes that will divert tens of thousands of prisoners to county custody, local communities will take responsibility for parole supervision and incarcerating parole violators. This program is not limited to non-serious or non-violent offenders. In fact, all but high-risk sex offenders and inmates paroled from life terms will be under county supervision. Offenders with prior serious and violent offenses would be under local supervision if their current offense was not serious or violent. Prior violent offenses indicate that these felons have a history of violence and could strike again.
On March 9, 2011, there were 13,969 parole violators who had been returned to the state prison system. Responsibility for incarcerating these parole violators would shift to the counties.
Finally, there will be reduced supervision of specified sex offenders. Realignment would permit offenders convicted of certain sex offenses to be released without state parole. These offenses include sexual battery, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child 14 or older, and production of child pornography. As a consequence such offenders would not be subject to GPS monitoring, which is a condition of state parole under Jessica's Law.
5. Counties have complained that there is no funding guarantee in realignment. Is that true?
True. While the realignment proposal includes funding for the 2010-11 budget year, there is no ongoing funding guarantee. Sales tax revenues that were diverted from the state to local communities can be redirected back to the state with a mere majority vote bill. What the state has given, it can take away, and the counties are rightfully concerned about this vulnerability.
For example, as part of the 2011-12 budget, the Democrats, with a majority vote, diverted Vehicle License Funding (VLF) that had been going to cities and Orange County to "fund" local public safety programs. Thus, the state cut local funding to give locals funding for specified law enforcement programs. These type of funding schemes can be done with a simple majority vote in the future.
6. The Governor claims that his proposal provides adequate funding to build more local jail beds. Is that true?
False. The Governor's proposal did not provide any additional funding to build local jail beds. Assembly Bill 900, which was passed in 2009, authorized the funding. These funds were intended to enable local agencies to house local prisoners and will not be adequate to house the estimated 52,000 prisoners being diverted to local communities.