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Friday, November 1, 2013

Study: Changes needed in prison realignment law

APA study of Gov. Jerry Brown's 2-year-old prison realignment law released Friday recommends major changes that would relieve some of the burden from California's counties.

Under the law, lower-level offenders are sent to county jails instead of state prisons, sometimes for lengthy sentences. When they're released, they're supervised by local probation officers instead of state parole agents.

The study by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center recommends capping county jail sentences at three years and having ex-offenders with serious or violent records supervised by state parole agents, not county probation.

The study also says parolees who repeatedly violate terms of their release should go to state prisons and not county jails, where they often are released within days because of overcrowding.

Researchers interviewed 125 local police officials, sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and probation officers for the $200,000 study, which was funded partly by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The consensus was "this happened too fast, the infrastructure was not ready, and we went too far. We need to pull back a little bit," said Stanford Law School professor Joan Petersilia, the center's co-director.

The Brown administration referred requests for comment to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in an emailed statement that the study shows California has made "remarkable changes" in its criminal justice system since the law took effect. But she also acknowledged that "additional time and collaboration is needed at all levels of government to ensure ongoing success." continue reading...

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