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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Realignment in Review: Back to the basics

California ForwardWe spend a lot of time playing so-called “inside baseball” here when discussing Realignment. We get key stakeholders of criminal justice in the room together, we try to share our knowledge with them as well as get them to exchange knowledge with each other.

Truth be told, Realignment is a niche issue that has been thrust into the spotlight over the past two years with the passing of AB 109 and the focus shifting to the 58 counties of California and how they deal with new burdens being placed upon them.

There was no pilot program, there was no test county from which a successful roadmap could be gleaned. When the Supreme Court ruled that California’s state prison’s were overcrowded to the point that inmate health care was a form of cruel and unusual punishment (banned by the US Constitution), action had to be taken swiftly to reduce populations.

Many offenders with non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual offenses either stayed at the county level instead of getting sent to a state facility. Many others were physically transferred to the county level from state prison. Some who were simply too old and no longer posed a threat to society were given shortened sentences, and some who were eligible for probation were given it early.

All of these were quick solutions the state had to come up with to comply with the court ruling. All of these solutions mean that more people with criminal backgrounds will back in the community in which they committed the crime. This doesn’t mean that they will be any less safe, assuming screening for release candidates was done properly and that rehabilitation works, but those are givens across the criminal justice spectrum, not just those involved with AB 109.

But it does mean that this is an issue that every Californian should care about. When I began delving into this issue here at California Forward, I didn’t know the difference between a jail or a prison, between probation and parole, or between the Sheriff and the police. My sense is that many Californians (and people across the country) use those terms interchangeably with no rhyme or reason, as I once did. continue reading...

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