Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 09/17/2011 07:08:23 AM PDT

Probation departments in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties are expected to soon start expanding as the state prison system shifts responsibility for thousands of low-level offenders to local agencies.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment program, county probation departments will take over the supervision of parolees beginning Oct. 1.

Earlier this year, Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, which aimed to ease prison overcrowding and help cut California’s budget shortfall.

As a result, about 33,000 adult offenders convicted of nonserious, nonviolent and nonsexual offenses would be handled by local jails and county probation departments under a federal court order.

Only those whose last conviction was for a nonviolent, nonserious or nonsexual offense will be part of the plan.

Currently, these parolees are supervised by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In addition, felons convicted of nonviolent, nonserious and nonsexual offenses will serve their sentences in county jail rather than state prison.

The change means millions of dollars in funding will be available for the probation departments in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties to hire more personnel and to implement new models of operation that includes new rehabilitation and support centers.

But county officials have expressed concerns about Brown’s realignment plan, primarily because it does not come with allocated funding beyond the current fiscal year.

S.B. County to take on thousands of offenders

In San Bernardino County, officials are expecting to have about 2,000 additional offenders in jails and 2,000 extra offenders under probation with the realignment. The county will receive $25 million.

County Chief Probation Officer Michelle Scray said her department currently has about 300 probation officers, but are looking to add more than 100 more.

“I would say the challenge for the department as a whole is expanding our staff and getting enough officers to supervise them,” Scray said. “We will assess what level of supervision they require and accordingly place them into which unit is the most appropriate.”

Probation Department officials also plan on creating three day reporting centers in select geographic areas and assign officers to them.

“We don’t have day reporting centers right now, but there will be one in each of the geographic areas of the county – in the west end, one in the desert and the central area,” Scray said.

Officials at the centers will provide treatment to the offenders in an effort curb recidivism rates.

Scray said her most pressing concern about the changes is that there is no guaranteed source of funding in the years to come.

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