Monday, August 15, 2011

2011-08-15 "Solano jail braces for an influx of inmates from state prison" by Catherine Bowen from "The Vacaville Reporter" newspaper
In a move some call long overdue and others say should never happen, the state is set to send waves of prison inmates flooding into county jails and communities as early as this fall, leaving local authorities bracing for the storm.
With the wheels set into motion earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown's election, Assembly Bill 109 was proposed as a solution to the constant struggle against chronic prison overcrowding.
Solano County Sheriff Gary Stanton said prison overcrowding is not new, and a major push was made when two inmates sued the state because prisoners were not receiving adequate medical and mental health care. The courts agreed, and ordered the state to remedy the problem.
"What AB 109 does is transitions responsibility for 38,000 inmates to local control, to counties," Stanton said.
By Oct. 1, Solano County will likely see the start of the nearly 700 inmates to be introduced to the area over the next three years, Stanton said. Of these inmates, all categorized by the state as "low-risk offenders,"
356 are slated to be released into Post-release Community Supervision, "a softer and gentler way of saying parolees," he added. Another 280 will be diverted from prison to a stop over in Solano County Jail.
In order for this to be done, the state identified what are referred to as "non-, non-, nons-," Stanton said -- that is, "non-sex offense, non-significant, non-violent criminal offenders."
"The state is keeping the worst of the worst,"
Stanton said. "And when they term out, when they finish their terms of confinement, they will be released to adult parole services."
However, these individuals, rather than being monitored by the state, will be under the closer supervision of county law enforcement, Stanton said.
He said if the parolees violate terms of their release, rather than being sent back to state prison, they will be sent to county jail. Stanton said the jail's regular population is expected to increase by an average of 55 because of new parole violators.
Stanton said a significant number are going to have to be released back into the community because the county simply lacks the bed space for them. With 200 available beds, the issue comes down to staffing and budget constraints.
"Every inmate coming to us from state prison ... they're all going to be assessed to determine their level of criminal sophistication, their level of potential success in out-of-custody placement, their level for violence, and then we'll decide who stays in and who goes out," Stanton said. "The reality is I can't house all of them. There's no room."
These individuals, he went on to say, will have to be put in an "alternative to custody" situation that uses GPS monitoring.
"We're going to dump as many as we can into out-of-custody programs -- if we think they'll be successful," Stanton said. "If in the assessment we don't think they'll be successful, they're going to stay in custody."
Initially set to kick in last month, AB 109 implementation has been postponed to Oct. 1, giving local law enforcement a little more time to brace for the impact.
Despite the delay, Stanton said the move comes at a bad time.
"Now that we're all down from two years of budget reductions, we get hit with this, the timing could not have been worse for us," he said.
Stanton said that if the state fails to follow through or makes further reductions the community will feel the impact. The state has allotted $3.8 million to Solano County for the first year, or an estimated $7,800 per inmate per year.
"That is likely to be insufficient to even provide supervision for them. There's no money there to put them into programs. And they should go in programs," Stanton said, citing such things as drug and alcohol classes, GED and vocational training programs as ways to help reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
"The reality of it is, I'm going to have to hire officers to watch these people and so is Probation," he said. "We're going to have to use the first pass of that funding for that. If there's anything left over, then we'll look and see what we can do for programming."
Stanton said he is expecting some initial bumps along the way but is optimistic for the future.
"What we're looking at is probably a very difficult first year, and then in the second and third years it should get a little better and then in about the fourth year I think we can probably turn the corner," he said. "We know we can't do any worse than the state did with it, they set the bar pretty low."
"It won't be perfect, we will make mistakes, but this is one of those situations where we can't say no," Stanton said. "It's now statutory and we now get it whether we want it or not. We have to make the best out of it, and we're going to make the best out of it we can."

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