Two years after Assembly Bill 109 was passed in the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles County officials reported to the Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday meeting on the success and challenges of prison realignment.
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AB 109 allows for non-violent, non-sexual offenders to be sentenced to county jails instead of state prisons and for these same felons to be supervised by the county Probation Department instead of the state Parole Department once released.
The report to the board by the Probation Department, Department of Mental Health, Public Health Department and Sheriff’s Department focused on how the county handles AB 109 offenders after they are released, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, flash incarcerations and the rate of recidivism–offenders who commit crimes after their release.
Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers opened the report by explaining that L.A. County is currently the only county in the state that has created a year two report on the results of AB 109.
He and the other presenters also emphasized that some of the data from year two is not complete, because those offenders released during 2013 may not have completed their probation or treatment.
During the first two years, more than 18,000 prisoners were released into the county under the Post-Release Community Supervision program, but the active probation population peaked at 10,300, according to the Probation Department’s full report, available here.
Powers said that of those 18,000 who have gone through the program so far, 1,900 have outstanding warrants, a similar ratio to other counties in the state.
He also said that flash incarcerations have significantly increased between years one and two–from more than 2,500 to more than 9,700–primarily because the Probation Department has become more comfortable with using this method of dealing with probation violators.
Flash incarcerations are seven to 10 day sentences given to AB 109 offenders for technical violations, such as failing to report to their probation officer.
Concerning recidivism, Powers said that the percentage of rearrests has been cut in half between years one and two– 43 percent rearrested vs. 21 percent rearrested.
He also said that L.A. County has a higher percentage of released AB 109 offenders, because low-level offenders are not usually sentenced to prison in this county.
“Approximately 30 percent of the total population that has been released to counties has come to Los Angeles County,” he said.
Marvin Southard, director of the Mental Health Department, and Jonathan Fielding, director of the Department of Public Health reported on the offenders referred to them from the Probation Department.
The main issue seemed to be those offenders who refuse to complete their prescribed mental illness or substance abuse treatment programs.
Southard said that currently 68 percent of those referred to his department are in compliance.
Fielding said that his department has an average 39 percent rate of success.
Referring to the those not in compliance with the Mental Health Department, Powers said that “the 32 percent is the scariest percent out there.”
Southard said that going forward, the department will expand it’s resources in jails and residential treatment centers.
He also said that he currently has staff actively working to engage AB 109 offenders
The percentage of offenders in compliance has already gone up from 45 percent in year one to 68 percent, but Southard also acknowledged that the extra caseload from AB 109 is stretching their resources.
“We’ve tried to manage it and minimize the impact on the public, but it has been a strain,” he said in response to a question by Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
Fielding said that the Department of Public Health is seeking to expand its treatment provider network, improve offender assessment and referral process and train staff.
Assistant Sheriff Terri MacDonald reported on the number of arrests under AB 109 and the felons being sent to state prison as opposed to county jails.
The annual number of prison sentences has gone from 1,300 to 980 in three years.
“You would expect that under realignment,” she said.
After the presentation, William Fujioka, county CEO likewise said that the state is saving nearly $2 billion thanks to AB 109.
“I don’t believe this population should have saved money for the state,” he said.
Fujioka suggested that the board prepare a five signature letter to send to the governor and state government, asking for funding to help manage the county’s AB 109 population.
All the officials present said that numbers and trends would be more clear as time progressed.
PowerPoint slides from each report are available on the County Board website here.
The board typically meets at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. Click here to view the most current agenda or livestream the meetings.
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Source: Santa Clarita News