California's Realignment Is Really "Prisoner Dumping" Says Carl Hilliard
30 Apr, 2012, 03:58 ET
SAN DIEGO, April 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- California's solution for failing to administer an effective prison system is to shift the prisoner burden from the state to local counties. The state calls this shift, which resulted in a transfer of approximately $5.9 billion in responsibilities to local counties, realignment. Carl Hilliard, a candidate for San Diego County Supervisor, Third District, labels the move "prisoner dumping."
"We would fail the citizens of our community and the victims of crime to follow the state's example and dump prisoners who have no jobs, are hooked on drugs, mentally ill, likely not rehabilitated and equally likely to commit another crime onto our streets," says Hilliard.
Beginning last October, California state prisons began moving "non-non-non" (non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent) offenders into county jails, the county probation system and county courts. By summer the number of former state prisoners is expected to reach 6,000, including prisoners with the highest maintenance costs – those with medical problems and mental health issues, as well as prisoners with prior histories of violent crimes who are serving sentences for lesser offenses—costing San Diego County $100 million in the first year alone.
"Get Sacramento out of the way," says Hilliard, "and we will do a better job of handling the costs without jeopardizing public safety. Here's what we need to do."
- Return exclusive control over property tax to local governments. Put an end to mandates, funded or not, as well. We can manage our revenues if they are not required to control the state's overspending.
- Give local governments exclusive control of funds for county courts. The state's financial problems have spilled over into county court budgets to the point where courtrooms are closed and offenders cannot be prosecuted. We're in a better position locally to make our communities safer by dealing with core issues like mental illness, drug addiction and rehabilitation through resident drug-treatment programs, split sentences and other means.
- Use validated risk assessment to manage the jail population. With the right tools, like a certified risk-assessment program and electronic monitoring, along with mandatory participation in substance-abuse programs and community-based service counseling, the county can identify prisoners who could be released without harm to the community, rather than occupying a jail cell until bail can be posted.
- Release low-risk prisoners with electronic monitoring instead of building more jails. Accommodating a growing population of low-risk offenders by building more jails does more to increase maintenance and staffing costs, and create a significant long-term financial burden for taxpayers, than it does to rehabilitate. Let's consider an alternative, such as the housing and reentry program for female prisoners that has a remarkable 78 percent success rate. The program's cost is far less than the cost for incarceration. An electronic monitoring system rings up at $2.50 a day, a minuscule amount compared to the $50 per day tab for incarceration.
For more information, visit www.hilliardforsupervisor2012.com.
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