[KHTS] – Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday are expected to approve a reimbursement of about $337.7 million to pay for AB 109 programs, a controversial jail-prison realignment program.
While Supervisor Michael Antonovich has been a vocal opponent of the state’s public safety realignment program, which was aimed at reducing the number of non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual offenders in state prisons due to a Supreme Court order, officials claim early data shows promise.
“Realignment continues to pose serious concerns and threatens public safety statewide because we are dealing with repeat offenders,” Antonovich said last week, when the law’s implementation was reviewed. “There are over 32,000 arrests involving the 24,000 (post-supervision probationers) under probation supervision because some are being arrested up to seven or eight times.”
However, state and county officials, especially in L.A. County, have shown support for the early results of the law and its effects.
“This preliminary review of the earliest months appears to show a relationship between spending on reentry services and a positive impact on recidivism,” according to a statement from Tracie Cone, spokeswoman for the Board State of Correctional Communities, an entity created by AB 109. “In 2013-14, counties received approximately $1 billion, which is being allocated according to counties’ evolving priorities. We will learn more as counties’ collaborative and innovative approaches to public safety, including reentry services, have time to work.”
A state prison official cautioned at least three years’ of data is required, generally speaking, in order to look at the recidivism rate, which BSCC officials acknowledge in their statement.
Each county enacts AB 109 in accordance with its own needs, according to state correctional officials.
The idea behind AB 109 was never to swap state prisoners for county jail inmates, Cone said.
However, the state prison population has fallen by about 25,000 since the enactment of AB 109 in October 2011, while the jail population in L.A. County steadily increased since the law was enacted, topping out in April at approximately 22,000.
“Realignment was motivated, in part, by the idea that ‘Locals can do it better’—that counties would be able to reduce the recidivism rates of lower-level offenders more effectively than the state prison and parole system,” according to a Public Policy Institute of California report.
“This report has examined two questions: whether realignment affected the recidivism outcomes of the (probationer) population and whether county implementation policies had an impact on those recidivism outcomes,” the report states.
The study revealed — again, cautioning against linking the outcomes to AB 109 based on the volume of data — “evidence that (AB 109) probationers released to counties that prioritized re-entry in their realignment implementation plans had better recidivism outcomes than their counterparts released to counties that prioritized enforcement.”
The early implications reveal emphasizing re-entry programs as opposed to incarceration, could create conditions for reducing the recidivism rate for AB 109 offenders.
To that end, District Attorney Jackie Lacey is calling for prosecutors to encourage split-sentencing whenever possible, which mandates a criminal take part in a supervisory program after their release.
This countywide policy change is being state-mandated starting in 2015.