last updated: July 25, 2012 11:12:14 PM
A report released Wednesday by the state's chief probation officers backed up a claim that local officials have been making for months: The San Joaquin Valley has had more prisoners returned to it through the state's realignment system and less money to pay to oversee them.
In the six months after realignment took effect, the 12-county Central California area received 8 percent more offenders than expected, while other regions, such as Sacramento and the Bay Area, received roughly 5 percent fewer than expected.
"This shows the disparity once again between larger urban areas and the Central Valley," Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said. "We are taking the brunt of realignment."
Christianson and Chief Probation Officer Jill Silva said they hope the state will consider the data in the report when it takes another look at how to allocate funding aimed at helping local communities handle the extra burden.
Stanislaus County Chief Executive Officer Monica Nino sits on the committee charged with that task, "so we will definitely have a voice there," Silva said.
Law enforcement officials have linked realignment which was designed to help the state's budget crunch by lowering its inmate population to a rise in property and violent crimes.
"We had almost 30 months of sustained reductions in Part 1 crimes," Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden said. Part 1 crimes range from murder to arson and car theft. Since realignment started in October, "we're seeing it soar the other way."
Harden said the only thing that has changed during this time is the return of inmates to local jurisdictions, where already crowded jails can't house them.
"There are not enough jail bed spaces in this county to incarcerate those who need to be incarcerated," he said.
The report points out some successes in the state program that put more than 23,000 ex-convicts under local supervision rather than state parole. Less than 4 percent of felons failed to report to their county probation officers after their release from state prison, compared with 14 percent who faced fugitive arrest warrants for failing to report to their parole officers under the old system. And the state prison population is less than 140,000 for the first time in 16 years.
"Our goal is to put out data for public consumption and analysis," said Steve Bordin, chief probation officer of Butte County and president of the state organization. "It is important to have facts available to guide policy decisions as we implement this historic reform."
A related change in state law is helping drive down the numbers of fugitives, said Michael Daly, chief probation officer in Marin County and chairman of the committee that produced the report. Ex-convicts can be released from supervision after six months if they show up and don't have infractions, compared with a year under previous law.
"We've hung out a pretty good carrot there" for offenders to behave, he said.
In Stanislaus County, officials said, the various agencies tied to realignment sheriff, probation, mental health, social services have been working together much more effectively than their peers elsewhere.
This week, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan to spend $15.5 million in the second round of state realignment funding to increase the number of beds at the lower-security Honor Farm; hire more positions for the sheriff's, probation and mental health departments; and expand programs for offenders.
"Many other folks throughout the state haven't even gotten their phase 1 plan completed," said Christianson. "We're on phase 2. We're making this thing work."
Silva said other jurisdictions are mired in turf wars over control of the money coming from the state. Christianson, she pointed out, included in his plans a day reporting center for the Probation Department.
But there's still not enough money to handle the increased workload, and jail construction takes time. In the meantime, there are people convicted of crimes who aren't doing the time they should because there's no room to house them.
"When you're incarcerated, you're not ripping people off," Harden said. "When that person's not in custody, they're not getting clean, they're not getting some of the treatment they need. They're back in our community."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343.
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