Prison realignment shows slow progress

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -  

California’s prison realignment program is being called an ‘astounding success’ as far as moving inmates out of the state’s prison system. That’s one conclusion of a new report.

The center on juvenile and criminal justice studied the first year of realignment.

The 2011 law calls for the shift of thousands of non-violent, non-serious, non sex-offender inmates from state prison to county control.

The goal is to reduce the state prison population by 40,000 within five years. The report says that in the first year alone, 27,000 inmates were dropped from the state’s prison system.

“It’s actually quite impressive, said Brian Heller De Leon, Policy and Government Outreach Coordinator.

“I think any legislation, any policy always has unintended consequences. At least at the state level, we are seeing some pretty impressive results.”

But Heller De Leon says some counties, in particular Sacramento, Kings, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin counties are still sending far too many low-level inmates to state prisons.

He says other counties are using drug programs, supervised release and other alternatives to jailing low-level offenders. Still he says some counties are avoiding the alternatives and simply building new prisons.

“There’s kind of a county jail building boom going on. It’s one thing to upgrade a bad jail but to build a new jail at taxpayers’ expense without looking at the alternatives  just doesn’t make sense for public’s safety or for use of public dollars,” said Heller De Leon.

As for the fear that having counties manage thousands of formerly imprisoned criminals would lead to an increase in violent crime, Heller De Leon says there is not enough evidence yet to come to any conclusion.

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