Prison Overcrowding and Realignment
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Prison Overcrowding and Realignment

The League of California Cities is holding their annual convention on September 18 through the 20th in Sacramento. As I am writing this in advance of the convention, I am only able to present background information. For those who do not know, the League is a 115-year old organization and serves as a forum where Mayors, Council members, and Department Heads for virtually all the cities in California can get together and share ideas and solutions to common problems. I am fortunate to have been able to serve as a member of the Board representing both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties for the past two years and also serve as the Vice Chair on one of the eight Policy Committees.

One of the more important topics scheduled to be discussed is Realignment. I have written about this subject before but little was known about the impact at that time. In October, 2011, the Governor proposed the realignment of public safety responsibilities from the overcrowded state prisons to local government. The State felt that this was a way to address court orders and potential litigation relating to prison overcrowding and a means of reducing state expenses.

At the time the Governor signed the realignment measures (AB109 and AB117); he stated that realignment required full funding by a constitutionally protected source of funds. Which all too often is the case, the Legislature enacted the realignment legislation without providing the funding suggested by the Governor. The result is that California lacks sufficient jail space, probation offices, and medical and mental health facilities, among other shortcomings to adequately execute the legislation. Additionally, other movements have been undertaken such as the early release of non-violent prisoners.

The recent passage of the changes to the "Three Strikes" Law (Proposition 36) passed in November 2012 by almost 70%. It was an attempt to separate the third strike into either violent or non-violent for new offences and allows re-sentencing of offender when the judge determines that the re-sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety. However, there still remains confusion over the definition of non-serious, non-sexual, and non-violent convictions used to filter out inmates to be able to participate in the realignment of transferring from state prison to local jails. It is felt by cities at this point that an offender's total criminal and mental history and not just their last criminal conviction.

Early release of prisoners has met with alarming results. Local police and District Attorneys are seeing more crimes against property perhaps because there will be little or no jail-time for crimes involving property and not against people. Property visible on a car seat has served as an invitation to would-be thieves and when you are a victim the feeling of being violated remains for some time.

The increased criminal activity will surely put pressure on already financially strapped agencies even as the sharing of information across jurisdictions has increased. Local police officials have been assessing the results of the increased crime and how to cope with it and continue to be concerned with the impacts on municipal public safety. Whatever new methods or procedures that the local police are able to develop will be an increased drain on local coffers. Cities, through a unified League of California Cities are pursuing funding commitments from the State for mandates that they placed upon the local level.

The League is taking positions with the State Legislature and the Governor to address issues such as the one I have just addressed. The League of California Cities is the lobbying group for the cities and does an effective job without the use of financial influence or campaign contributions. The League has a Strategic priority of promoting and strengthening local control for the cities of California. I am and remain a proud supporter and participant of the League of California Cities and with the continued theme of supporting local government, I would expect the League to be around anther 115 years.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at akiesel@fostercity.org or 650-573-7359.

Council Corner

September 25, 2013
Prison Overcrowding and Realignment
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