The Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011

In April of this year Governor Brown signed AB109, ‘The Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011’. The first goal of this new program was to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to alleviate overcrowding. The second goal for the program is reduce the recidivism rate (around 70%) among the current California prison population. The new law will realign the placement of non-violent, non-serious, and non sex offenders (non-non-nons), from state prisons to county jails or whatever alternative punishment the county comes up with. The implementation of the 2011 Realignment Legislation began October 1, 2011.

Under AB 109:

  • No inmates currently in state prison will be transferred to county jails.
  • No inmates currently in state prison will be released early.
  • All felons sent to state prison will continue to serve their entire sentence in state prison.
  • All felons convicted of current or prior serious or violent offenses, sex offenses, and sex offenses against children will go to state prison.
  • There are nearly 60 additional crimes that are not defined in Penal Code as serious or violent offenses but at the request of law enforcement were added as offenses that would be served in state prison rather than in local custody.

People, who were paroled prior to October 1, will continue to be under the supervision of the state. But, after 10/01/2011, the Division of Adult Parole Operations will only be supervising those felons who have been convicted of violent offenses, sex offenses, sex offenses against children, and third strike. AB109 will essentially get rid of the parole system as we know it. It will create a new system of “post-release community supervision” for low-risk offenders, in which those released from prison after serving a term for a non-non-nons felony offense will be supervised by the county (either the county probation office or another agency designated by the county to take on this responsibility).

AB 109 added Section 1170(h) to the Penal Code to provide that for certain felonies, terms of imprisonment would be served in county jail rather than state prison. The Legislature then amended almost 500 criminal statutes to require sentencing pursuant to section 1170(h). These are referred to as “Penal Code section 1170(h) crimes.” The term for section 1170(h) crimes remains the same, but the sentence is served in county jail instead of state prison, and still operates as a prison prior. AB 109: Eligible 1170(h) Felonies List

Last Thursday night Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier and I attended a meeting where Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston discussed the impact of this realignment on the County.

The first concern addressed was; where do we put all these newly incarcerated individuals? Fortunately for Contra Costa there are about 400 empty cells throughout the system. For those counties that already have overcrowded county jails low level criminals will be let out early.

The second issue was; how do we pay for this? The governor’s office is providing 400 million dollars to counties to implement the re-alignment plan. Is this enough? The Sheriff displayed a page from his PowerPoint presentation detailing the cost: the state will provide $32. In the past when the state rented cells from the county the state paid $77/cell. The sheriff calculated that the actual cost to house a prisoner is around $85.

There is a formula used to determine how much each county will receive. Counties that have sent more people to state prison will receive a larger bundle of state cash to keep their offenders locally. Those counties who have been progressive with their sentencing using options such as ankle bracelets are penalized in this formula. This same formula will be used to determine how much each county will receive to build additional facilities in the future. Memories of the disparities created in funding with Prop 13 are hard to ignore.

Only time will tell if this risky plan by the Governor to save the state money will succeed. There will not be busloads of inmates moving from state prisons to county jails. The turnover to local control will take time. Each county will be impacted differently.


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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