Placer County is hard at work preparing for a state-mandated program that will make the county responsible beginning this fall for many adult parolees and criminal offenders the state classifies as low-level and nonviolent.
One of the main concerns facing Placer County is how to effectively supervise the target population within funding constraints imposed by the state in the 2011-12 budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown June 30.
Another concern raised by local public safety agencies is with the state definition of low-level, nonviolent offenders. Placer County District Attorney R. Scott Owens noted, for example, that many hardened criminals convicted of crimes such as the manufacture of methamphetamine, felony elder abuse and felony assault likely to cause great bodily injury are considered low-level, nonviolent offenders under the state’s definition.
The Placer County Board of Supervisors received an update on the county’s preparations at a meeting at North Lake Tahoe Monday.
At the meeting, county staff presented board members with a road map for implementing realignment when the state begins rolling out the program Oct. 1.
Placer County’s road map will be drafted by a state-mandated group called the Community Corrections Partnership Advisory Committee (CCP) and its Executive Committee.
The chair of both committees is county Chief Probation Officer Marshall C. Hopper. The Advisory Committee includes representatives from several county departments: Probation, the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender, Sheriff’s Office, Health and Human Services and County Executive Office. It also has representatives from the Placer County Superior Court, Placer County Office of Education, local police agencies, community-based organizations and crime victims.
The implementation and funding plan the committees draft is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval next January.
“I know we have the tools and skill set to implement this appropriately,” said Supervisor Jack Duran, the Board of Supervisors representative on the Advisory Committee. “We have the right people at the table.”
He emphasized that protecting public safety will be his top priority.
“In October, our justice system will change dramatically,” Hopper said. “I am confident we will be ready, because the county and its partners already are hard at work developing a comprehensive plan to address the impacts of realignment.”
Placer County expects to receive about $3.45 million from the state for the realignment program during the 2011-12 fiscal year, including almost $3 million to reimburse the county for jail, supervision and alternative-sentencing costs. The state will provide about $107,000 to cover parole revocation costs that will face the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices.
The rest of the state funding is for one-time costs: $210,000 for training and $150,000 for planning.
County Executive Officer Thomas M. Miller told the board it is clear the state funding will be inadequate to cover Placer County’s new costs. “I think it’s going to be a huge challenge,” he said.
“This is a huge change in how business is done in the criminal justice system and it presents tremendous challenges,” District Attorney Owens said, emphasizing that realignment must be implemented in a way that protects the public.
In a report to the board, staff said public safety realignment will help the state balance its budget and comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May that requires the state to reduce overcrowding in its prisons.
Staff also told board members realignment is an opportunity for counties to replace the state’s model for locking up low-level, nonviolent offenders with a more flexible, cost-effective approach tailored to community needs. The staff report emphasized that research shows a flexible approach that includes jail time, community supervision, treatment and diversion programs can help reduce the number of repeat offenders while lowering criminal-justice costs.
The staff report notes that Placer County has a long history of operating alternative-sentencing programs that rely on electronic monitoring, work release and intensive supervision. The programs are cost-effective, help reduce overcrowding at the county jail and ensure that participants serve their entire sentences.
Placer County currently is responsible for about 5,200 offenders and adult parolees.
State officials estimate Placer County will be responsible for an additional 429 offenders and adult parolees on a typical day when the realignment program is fully operational in four years. Realignment will shift to county responsibility offenders classified by the state as low-level and nonviolent who:
In the past would have been sent to state prison,
Have completed prison sentences and are assigned to post-release community supervision or
Have community supervision assignments revoked.
Under realignment, all felons currently sentenced to state prison will continue serving their full sentences in prison. Felons convicted of sex crimes, child molestation and other serious violent offenses can still be sentenced to state prison.