Wednesday, July 4, 2012

(Orange Co) Grand jury: State inmates have big local impact

A report issued by the county’s grand jury asks local agencies to collect better information as to how the state’s prison realignment program is affecting, crime, probation, and local jails. It also asks a local law enforcement committee to find a way to compensate local police departments dealing with a possible increase in crime.


Law enforcement officials should find a way to increase the share of money local police agencies receive to deal with the state's prison realignment, according to a grand jury report.

As the responsibility of housing and supervising thousands of convicts shifts from state correction officials to counties, the state allocated $23 million to Orange County last year. While the bulk went to the Orange County Sheriff's Department – which is responsible for county jails – local police agencies received less than $700,000.

In the report, the county's grand jury recommended that the Orange County Community Corrections Partnership should find a way to compensate local police departments for the impact the new program has on local crime. The Orange County Community Corrections Partnership committee is composed of law enforcement agencies, as well as prosecutors, public defenders, probation, and court officials to oversee the changes.

State restrictions on how the money should be dispersed among local agencies, "fails to recognize the increase in crime in communities," the report reads.

As California agencies readied for the implementation of the prison realignment program – which started in Oct. 2011 – local police departments expressed concern on how it could affect local crime. Local police departments have requested additional funding from the state to address the possibility increased crime rates, but the law limits how the funds can be used by the departments, restricting them only to overtime activities specific to the law, AB 109.

In Orange County, officials used a formula recommended by the California State Association of Counties, which allocated about 60 percent of state funds to housing, 30 percent to supervision, and 10 percent to health care.

From that allocation, officials then took out funds from those three portions and allocated about $700,000 to local agencies, said Bryan Prieto, chief deputy probation officer.

"We are really not going to know the cost until it gets into full implementation," Prieto said.

Crime rates have continuously dropped for most cities for years. What impact the new law has been so far on crime, or will be, is not entirely known, the report states.

Two police agencies told the grand jury they were seeing an increase in property crime. The grand jury also recommended that the Orange County Community Corrections Partnership conduct a study to look at the possible link between realignment and crime rates.

The report also echoed some of the concerns local agencies have already voiced.

The Orange County Register reported agencies were seeing an influx of inmates. In Nov. 2011, Sheriff's officials said they were experiencing nearly twice as many inmates than was predicted.

In June, Sheriff's officials said they expect county jails to reach capacity within four months.

Law enforcement officials have been using estimates provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the state's department of finance, but the number of inmates and probationers has been higher than expected, officials said.

Four months after the program went into effect, the Sheriff's department was seeing twice as many inmates in the jails than expected. So far, probation officials said they have seen 58 percent more probationers than was estimated.

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