Analysis: County Begins Planning For AB 109 Changes – Major Changes in Criminal Justice on the Way

m-rist

One of the broadest and most sweeping reforms in years is about to take place on October 1, when counties will directly assume responsibility for so-called low-level criminal offenders – those who have been convicted of non-violent, non-serious and non-sex crimes.

But that is just the start, it is not simply a prison release plan as some have both implied and feared.  Instead, it is a fundamental shift in the way that low-level criminal offenders are handled, from incarceration, to monitoring, to a shift in parole violations in the county and finally to reentry in terms of job training, anger management and substance abuse programs, all in efforts to reduce the California recidivism rate that is tops in the nation at 70 percent.

For some time, we have been hoping that this will mark a change in county policies on the charging and punishment of crimes.  As our analysis from earlier this year shows, despite Yolo County being a relatively low crime rate county, our incarceration rate is near the top of the state.

Will forcing county jails, and county money, to handle county crime, force changes in the charging policies of the District Attorney?  We shall see.

As Yolo County’s Public Defender Tracie Olson told the Davis Enterprise, “”It’s building an incentive for people to get treatment and go back into the community.”

She added, “The old-fashioned way of sending people off to do time bankrupted everybody.”

But not everyone has a hopeful view on this.

Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven told the Enterprise: “Some of these convicted criminals, based on AB 109, will do limited or no jail time.  Our jail only has so many beds, so that means many who were serving local time will be let out to make space for the new prison population.”

Local law enforcement fears this means it will increase crime.

Davis Police Chief Landy Black told the Enterprise: “Admittedly, all these people would have come back to our community anyway.  But while they’re gone, they’re not creating victims in our communities. Now, they will have that opportunity unfettered.”

But Marjorie Rist, Yolo County’s chief probation officer, sees it as an opportunity: “This legislation provides the opportunity for fairly significant correctional reform, and it provides the opportunity for that reform to occur safely.”

What is clear, looking at the numbers, is that something has to change.

In a report by the California Budget Report, they find, “Our new report shows that state spending on corrections has increased by nearly 1,500 percent over the past generation, more than four times the rate of General Fund spending as a whole. Shifting low-level offenders to county supervision has the potential to substantially reduce state corrections spending, thereby reversing the trend of recent decades, in which a larger and larger share of the state budget has gone toward state prisons and parole.”

They believe savings could be reinvested into things like education, child care, health care, and other public services – things that could actually prevent crime from happening in the first place.

It is not simply a matter of saving money – though clearly, given the state of the state budget, that is a major impetus.  But even without the budget crisis, the system is screaming for reform.

Writes the CBP, “Realignment gives counties an opportunity and the incentives to focus on substance abuse treatment, basic skills education, and other rehabilitative services that can improve outcomes for offenders and foster public safety.”

A bigger impact might be the reduction in the female incarceration rate.

“Female offenders would particularly benefit from such a sea change in corrections policy, since more than half of women currently in prison are classified as low risk, serving time for property or drug crimes,” the CBP reports.

In a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, CBP founder Jean Ross wrote, “California warehouses one of the largest populations of female prisoners in the world and also has the dubious distinction of being home to two of the world’s largest women’s prisons.”

“This reform presents an unprecedented opportunity to rapidly reduce the number of women sent to state prison and to shutter one or both of the women’s institutions in Chowchilla,” she continued.

“More than half of the state’s 9,500 female prisoners are classified as low risk, locked up for nonviolent and non-serious offenses. Under AB109, signed into law this year to implement the governor’s plan for restructuring corrections as part of the budget agreement, these women would not be sentenced to state prison, but would instead be placed in county jail, drug-treatment programs, community service or other alternatives to state custody.”

The savings could offset a huge amount of money cut from higher education.

A prison release program alone does not bear the full answer.  Instead, as the California State Association of Counties put it, the new model will require a paradigm shift.

“The successful model will not be an incarceration model, but one that seeks to divert and rehabilitate citizens,” allowing them to become “productive members of our community.”

Fear has taken over people’s mindsets.  But the real question is whether incarceration of these low level crimes really makes society safer and helps get the people out of the system.  If we put as many resources into reentry programs as we do into punishment, perhaps the recidivism rate would be lower and so would the incarceration rate.

One thing few people seem to understand, even housing someone at a two-year residential care facility is cheaper than incarcerating them over the same period of time.

Our hope is also that by forcing the counties, rather than the state, to handle their own problems, it will force them to come up with more creative solutions than what has been tried already, and that has been mass incarceration.

Before, it was easy for a prosecutor to charge someone for as much as they could get away with.  After all, the state would pick up the bill for that individual if they entered prison.  That all changes now.

In response to AB 109, the county has come up with a Community Corrections Partnership which includes many of the stakeholders in the process – the Sheriff’s Department, DA’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, County Supervisors, local police and court administrators.

It may take a little time, but by forcing other government agencies into the mix, the DA’s Office is going to have pressure to change charging practices.  It will take some time, but no longer will the DA simply be able to charge whatever they want with few questions.

Many already believe that prison is not the appropriate mechanism to deal with low-level offenders, that it tends to remove opportunities for them to right themselves and it creates a never-ending perpetuation of the problem that we now see in the recidivism rate.

For the first time in a long time, budget realities are going to force major changes to the way in which people are charged, tried, convicted, incarcerated, released and monitored, and that can only be a good thing.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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41 Comments

  1. hpierce

    [quote]For the first time in a long time, budget realities are going to force major changes to the way in which people are charged, tried, convicted, incarcerated, released and monitored and that can only be a good thing.[/quote]Makes sense… there should be a cost/benefit analysis done by the prosecution before any charges are filed, that analysis should be confirmed prior to going to trial, and (to ensure transparency and democratic values), there should be a separate third-party cost/benefit analysis performed so that a jury can evaluate it prior to rendering a verdict, and prior to sentence being imposed. Works for me…. not.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Davis Police Chief Landy Black told the Enterprise: “Admittedly, all these people would have come back to our community anyway. But while they’re gone, they’re not creating victims in our communities. Now, they will have that opportunity unfettered.”

    But Marjorie Rist, Yolo County’s chief probation officer, sees it as an opportunity: “This legislation provides the opportunity for fairly significant correctional reform, and it provides the opportunity for that reform to occur safely.”[/quote]

    I think the statements above get to the heart of the problem. While it sounds good to turn the incarceration problem back to the local gov’t/law enforcement to effect real change in the incarceration paradigm, will there be enough money to put the programs in place necessary to prevent people from committing crimes/repeating crimes? If there is to be a “realignment”, was there enough state funding given to counties to do the job properly? It sounds good to say now there can be more social programs to address the problems rather than resorting to incarcerations, but law enforcement knows darn well the money for those social programs just is not there and is not likely to ever be there. Even if some social programs are in place to some degree, how well will they actually work? These programs are often notoriously expensive and unsuccessful, e.g. drug rehab.

    Only time will tell which statement will be the more accurate one, and time does have to be given to work this out – time we really don’t have, because the state foisted their problems back on local gov’t willy nilly without the requisite funding needed to build those social programs everyone is touting that are supposedly going to help solve the counties’ law enforcement problems…

    I have to say, from my perspective, I am not my usual optimistic self, and tend to think Chief Black’s assessment is going to be more accurate…

  3. AdRemmer

    [quote]Our hope is also that by forcing the counties, rather than the state, to handle their own problems, it will force them to come up with more creative solutions than what has been tried already, and that has been mass incarceration.[/quote]

    Unfortunately, David, in criminal court matters it is the [b]”STATE”[/b] of CA vs, the defendant, not the cities or counties…

    Once again, you’ve got to do better at grasping these things…

  4. AdRemmer

    But Marjorie Rist, Yolo County’s chief probation officer, sees it as an opportunity: “This legislation provides the opportunity for fairly significant correctional reform, and it provides the opportunity for that reform to occur safely.”

    So did Penal Code section 1210.1 (PROPOSITION 36) an utter failure with a mere 29% success rate (it too was underfunded).

    That law remains on the books and is virtually unfunded…

    And guess which population was primarily resposible for the high failure rates?

    You guessed it – Parolees…

  5. AdRemmer

    [quote]A bigger impact might be the reduction in the female incarceration rate.

    “Female offenders would particularly benefit from such a sea change in corrections policy, since more than half of women currently in prison are classified as low risk, serving time for property or drug crimes,” the CBP reports.

    In a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, CBP founder Jean Ross wrote, “California warehouses one of the largest populations of female prisoners in the world and also has the dubious distinction of being home to two of the world’s largest women’s prisons.”
    [/quote]

    Interesting…see http://www.wpaonline.org/institute/hardhit/part1.htm

    the stats presented here are incongruent with the noted female incarceration rates…

  6. Fight Against Injustice

    AdRemmer: Even though the case may say the People v. ?, the state doesn’t get too involved until they have to pay for incarceration or at the appellate level. The local community makes the decisions on what to charge and whether to prosecute.

    I think that whenever a problem can be solved at the local area it has the best chance of success. Usually local governing bodies are more in tune with the needs of their community. To keep sending off your problems to the state, isn’t trying to solve them. It is just trying to pawn your troubles off to someone else.

    If Yolo County has too many people incarcerated, then Yolo County needs to figure out how to resolve this problem. Whether it is:
    1. Changing the charging practices of the DA.
    2. Coming up with social programs to help low-crime offenders.
    3. Better educational programming to stop these offenses in the first place.

    David brings up a valid point. Why does Yolo County have one of the highest incarceration rates and one of the lowest crime rates? Maybe having to pay for that high incarceration rate will slow it down.

  7. AdRemmer

    [quote]In response to AB 109, the county has come up with a Community Corrections Partnership which includes many of the stakeholders in the process – the Sheriff’s Department, DA’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, County Supervisors, local police and court administrators.[/quote]

    Forget anyone?

    Try…Marjorie Rist, Yolo County’s chief probation officer and chairwoman of a countywide Community Corrections Partnership…

  8. AdRemmer

    from Davis Enterprise: [quote]The initial mitigation plan for AB 109 approved Tuesday calls for about $3.3 million in spending on immediate needs, including the maximizing of county jail capacity and alternative confinement options, as well as measures to ensure that high-risk offenders are adequately supervised by the county.

    Board members approved it unanimously despite what they perceived as several flaws, including what Supervisor Mike McGowan called a lack of “clear, concise, measurable goals.”

    “The goal is to absorb the policies that have been thrust upon us, without affecting the crime rate,” Rist replied.[/quote]

    David did you also forget the following itsy-bitsy quote from Rist?

    “The goal is to absorb the policies that have been thrust upon us, without affecting the crime rate….”

    “THE GOAL?”

  9. AdRemmer

    DE also noted [quote] At the county Probation Department, caseloads will be reduced to one officer for every 50 high-risk offenders, who will undergo comprehensive needs assessments “to get at the core issues that are proven to be correlated with reoffense,” Rist said.

    ‘The idea, Rist said, is to provide those clients with the services they need to reduce their risk of recidivism. But the provision of those services has yet to be worked out, which raised some concerns at Tuesday’s board meeting.’[/quote]

    From DV story: “…so-called low-level criminal offenders – those who have been convicted of non-violent, non-serious…crimes.”

    “high risk offenders” which is it?

    Rist also has said “it will take time to determine the needs of out-of-custody clients, and spending money without knowing those needs makes little sense.”

    Whereas, Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza opined: “It needs to be done carefully and systematically, and not just dumping (money) on some program because it sounds good….”

  10. AdRemmer

    FAI: [quote]Even though the case may say the People v. ?, the state doesn’t get too involved until they have to pay for incarceration or at the appellate level. The local community makes the decisions on what to charge and whether to prosecute.[/quote]

    However, it does [b]NOT[/b]not make it soley a “Local Problem,” now does it?

    You do know that the listed victim is the state of CA, right?

  11. David M. Greenwald

    “Unfortunately, David, in criminal court matters it is the “STATE” of CA vs, the defendant, not the cities or counties… “

    You’re making a silly distinction here that is in fact not based on budgeting facts. The DA is not paid by the state but by the county.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    Ad Remmer: the problem is that law enforcement is locked into the mindset that the only way to handle low level crimes is to punish and incarcerate.

    Elaine: The money is there if you shift from incarcerating to treating. It is cheaper both long and short term to treat rather than imprison.

  13. Hec-Lo

    I feel that this law that is going in effect will help first time offenders non/violent offenders in particular. Imagine going to prison for the first time and being introduced to the brutal underworld of prison politics. I don’t see how anyone can come out of there without worse issues than before there incarceration. I feel if the person is a repeat offender then yes those people belong in prison. But first time offenders of non-violent crimes the AB-109 Law will definetly help them. And as for the county not having enough money. They just need to budjet wisely. Has anyone been to traffic court for a ticket lately? I sat for 30-45 minutes and I added close to $25,000 in revenue.

  14. jimt

    What will the alternatives to jail time be; i.e. what are the specific monitoring programs to be used?

    Seems like a lot of robust GPS ankle bracelets might be a good idea–Martha Stewart might even have some tips on how to wear them as a sensible fashion accessory!

  15. JustSaying

    [quote]“David brings up a valid point. Why does Yolo County have one of the highest incarceration rates and one of the lowest crime rates?”[/quote]We have one of the lowest crime rates BECAUSE we have one of the highest incarceration rates and because of other effective criminal justice accomplishments such as:[quote]“2. Coming up with social programs to help low-crime offenders.

    3. Better educational programming to stop these offenses in the first place. “[/quote]What evidence do you have that present Yolo County practices and initiatives don’t deserve credit for our enviable crime rate? Please be specific.

    How much better would you feel better if the statistics were reversed, highest crime rates and lowest incarceration rates in the state?

    We must be doing something right to be on the desirable side of the state crime rate stats. To what do you attribute our positive record if not for the programs and actions of our county justice system and leaders? Please be specific.

  16. rdcanning

    ERM says: “These programs are often notoriously expensive and unsuccessful, e.g. drug rehab. “

    Elaine, there is a fairly well developed literature which has found that “coerced” drug treatment (i.e. either of incarcerated individuals or those under court supervision) do quite well in treatment and maintain their gains. See for instance, the NIDA publication: http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/NNCollections/NNTreatment.pdf or https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/treat/consensus/anglin.pdf.

    AdRemmer: I’m not sure what your point about female offenders is. Maybe you could clarify. For the most part women in California’s prison are incarcerated for drug offenses (24% for women vs. 16% for men in 2009) and the percentage of women incarcerated for crimes against persons is 35% vs. 57% for men. See CDCR’s report: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/Annual/CalPris/CALPRISd2009.pdf

  17. AdRemmer

    Hec-Lo noted:[quote]I feel that this law that is going in effect will help first time offenders non/violent offenders in particular. Imagine going to prison for the first time and being introduced to the brutal underworld of prison politics.[/quote]

    It seems you don’t quite understand that most 1st time/NV offenders are not currently committed to CDCR.

  18. AdRemmer

    David, as a practioner I have an adequate grasp of the inner workings of our criminal justice system.

    Permit me to remind you of the comment, you originally posted: “Our hope is also that by forcing the counties, rather than the state, to handle their own problems…”

    Then David turns around and opines:[quote]You’re making a silly distinction here that is in fact not based on budgeting facts. The [/quote]

    David, in that YOU implied that crime in our state is a local problem when in fact it is a state wide issue, I replied with what you assert is a silly distinction.

    Surely you jest… ROFL

  19. AdRemmer

    BTW, FAI When you post: [quote]…the state doesn’t get too involved until they have to pay for incarceration or at the appellate level. [/quote]

    It makes wonder whether or not you comprehend that the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of Yolo is not a county agency, per se.

  20. David M. Greenwald

    “How much better would you feel better if the statistics were reversed, highest crime rates and lowest incarceration rates in the state?”

    I think what you want to see is a crime rate and incarceration rate roughly proportional.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]David, in that YOU implied that crime in our state is a local problem when in fact it is a state wide issue, I replied with what you assert is a silly distinction.

    Surely you jest… ROFL[/quote]

    I think you are misreading my point (I hope). The point is right now you have a county funded District Attorney who charges people and seeks state prison time for offenses. The county does not have to pay for these incarcerations, so it is basically a free ride for the prosecution.

    Now imagine a system where the county funded DA prosecutes low level offenders that go to the county and have to serviced by the county instead of the state. That changes the calculation and suddenly there is going to be local pressure on the DA perhaps to find alternatives to incarceration for people who are non-violent and low level offenses.

  22. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Unfortunately, David, in criminal court matters it is the “STATE” of CA vs, the defendant, not the cities or counties…

    Once again, you’ve got to do better at grasping these things…[/quote]

    Ah, yes, that one slipped by me… the courts are under STATE JURISDICTION now, not the county…

  23. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]If Yolo County has too many people incarcerated, then Yolo County needs to figure out how to resolve this problem. Whether it is:
    1. Changing the charging practices of the DA.
    2. Coming up with social programs to help low-crime offenders.
    3. Better educational programming to stop these offenses in the first place. [/quote]

    That sounds all well and good, until you realize the county gets its funding from the state, which is being very parsimonious at the moment, and probably will continue to be for a long time to come. So how do you suggest the county pay for more social/education programs with money they don’t have? Answer: they cannot. So the only solution is going to be letting low level offenders go – and that means more crime because low level offenders know there will be no repercussions… unless you believe private foundations and the like are somehow going to step up to the plate to fill the void, as so many Republicans have suggested?

  24. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]‘The idea, Rist said, is to provide those clients with the services they need to reduce their risk of recidivism. But the provision of those services has yet to be worked out, which raised some concerns at Tuesday’s board meeting.’[/quote]

    “But the provisions of those services has yet to be worked out…” bc there is not enough funding to provide them – whose kidding who?

  25. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]You’re making a silly distinction here that is in fact not based on budgeting facts. The DA is not paid by the state but by the county.[/quote]

    The county IS PAID BY THE STATE…

  26. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Elaine: The money is there if you shift from incarcerating to treating. It is cheaper both long and short term to treat rather than imprison.[/quote]

    This is where you are really missing the boat. Do you honestly think the state is going to give enough money to the county to set up the necessary social programs that are needed? The state is in a whole heap of economic trouble, and is looking to SAVE MONEY ON ITS BUDGET BY SHORTCHANGING THE LOCAL GOV’T. THE TOTAL PRISON FUNDING SAVED IS NOT GOING TO BE PASSED THROUGH TO THE LOCAL GOV’T; IT WILL GO TO HELP BALANCE THE STATE BUDGET. Do you honestly believe the state is going to give adequate funding to the local gov’t for those social services you keep dreaming of? If you really believe that, then I’ll introduce you to the Easter Bunny sometime… (couldn’t resist that one…:-) )

  27. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]What will the alternatives to jail time be; i.e. what are the specific monitoring programs to be used? [/quote]

    Yes, and we all know how well monitoring worked in the Jaycee Dugard case…

  28. David M. Greenwald

    Yes I believe that the state will give the counties the money to make this work. They believe that counties can do it cheaper (I think they are right) and therefore they can still save money in the exchange.

  29. David M. Greenwald

    “Yes, and we all know how well monitoring worked in the Jaycee Dugard case… “

    So the current system has flaws in it. The question is whether the counties could do a better job than parole in such monitoring.

  30. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Elaine, there is a fairly well developed literature which has found that “coerced” drug treatment (i.e. either of incarcerated individuals or those under court supervision) do quite well in treatment and maintain their gains. See for instance, the NIDA publication: http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/NN…atment.pdf or https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/treat/consensus/anglin.pdf. [/quote]

    From the article you cited: “A group of men who completed court-ordered treatment for alcohol and drug problems reported lower intrinsic motivation at the beginning of treatment, but, 5 years later reported the same rates of abstinence, employment, and rearrest as peers who sought help on their own.” Those free of “negative consequences” were only about 35%.

  31. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]ERM: “Yes, and we all know how well monitoring worked in the Jaycee Dugard case… ”

    DMG: So the current system has flaws in it. The question is whether the counties could do a better job than parole in such monitoring.[/quote]

    What makes you think the county can do any better?

  32. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Yes I believe that the state will give the counties the money to make this work. They believe that counties can do it cheaper (I think they are right) and therefore they can still save money in the exchange.[/quote]

    Sounds like wishful thinking to me…

  33. David M. Greenwald

    “What makes you think the county can do any better? “

    What I know is that the current situation is not working and I’m looking for an alternative – that applies across the board on this issue.

  34. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]What I know is that the current situation is not working and I’m looking for an alternative – that applies across the board on this issue.[/quote]

    Good luck w that one! Shall I introduce you to the Easter Bunny? No really, he exists… truly! (Couldn’t resist that one… just too tempting… ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I’m bad, very bad… LOL)

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