Beginning October 1, 7,000 to 8,000 state prisoners will be reassigned to county facilities, according to Fifth District County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
Fifteen thousand more are expected next year. Those figures don’t include the 9,000 parolees the county would also be forced to monitor.
Antonovich called the prisoner realignment “a Trojan horse style attack” on local governments that would “ensure catastrophic consequences” for Los Angeles County’s criminal justice system.
This afternoon the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is holding a special session with California Governor Jerry Brown regarding prison realignment under AB 109.
On April 5, Brown signed AB 109 which changes the law to realign certain responsibilities for lower level offenders, adult parolees and juvenile offenders from state to local jurisdictions.
“AB 109 will give local law enforcement the right and the ability to manage offenders in smarter and cost-effective ways,” said Brown.
Brown characterized the law as a way to improve public safety and empower local governments. He called the state prison system a “revolving door” for lower-level offenders and parole violators who are released within months, often before they are even transferred out of a reception center.
“Cycling these offenders through state prisons wastes money, aggravates crowded conditions, thwarts rehabilitation, and impedes local law enforcement supervision,” said Brown.
Antonovich’s office sees AB 109 as a way of transferring the state’s fiscal crisis to the counties. According to Antonovich’s Communication Deputy Tony Bell, correctional union contracts make it more expensive to house prisoners in state facilities than in the county.
“The state is broke,” Bell said. “But the county is in the black due to a fiscally conservative policy. Now, they want the county to absorb the prisoners at a cost to county taxpayers.”
The state says they will help pay, but Antonovich says the total costs will not be covered.
“Sentencing will not change under realignment; some inmates could serve sentences of up to five years in county jails despite state funding for just six months worth of expenses. Adult parolees and juvenile wards will also become the county’s problem,” Antonovich said.
And then there is an issue of public safety.
“The Sheriff will be forced to make space by releasing misdemeanor offenders into the community before they’ve served their time. Full jails mean no leverage over released felons and parole violators. The capabilities of every law enforcement agency in Los Angeles County will be compromised thanks to realignment.
Bell says L.A. County could see a “spike in crime.”
Antonovich has been in contact with Brown. Bell said “it was clear” the Governor was not aware of the impact of AB 109 on counties.