10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BY IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITER
ighori@pe.com

San Bernardino County public safety officials admitted to being a “little nervous” as they prepare to take over supervision of some low-risk offenders from the state prison system but said Tuesday they also see it as an opportunity to reduce recidivism.

Starting Oct. 1, counties will take over the supervision and custody of some convicts under a state law signed in .

Low-risk offenders — whose crimes are classified as nonviolent, non-serious and non-high-risk sex offenders — being released from prison normally overseen by state parole agents will now be supervised by county probation departments.

Also starting Oct. 1, people convicted of those less serious offenses will serve their sentences at county jails rather than in state prisons. Sheriff Rod Hoops estimated that San Bernardino County’s four jails will get about 300 additional prisoners a month.

“We are about to have a whole bunch of people we in this room consider bad guys that we have to deal with in a new way,” Supervisor Janice Rutherford told about 250 people gathered at Central Park Community Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

Rutherford, who convened the meeting, was joined by county public safety and state prison officials in describing the county’s plan for dealing with the prisoner realignment. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the plan at its Sept. 27 meeting.

The county will receive $27 million from the state through sales tax and vehicle license fees for the first year, but the big concern is ensuring continuing funding, Sheriff Rod Hoops said.

“We want some type of guaranteed funding source rather than just a promise,” he said.

County Chief Probation Officer Michelle Scray said her department expects to receive about 300 offenders for supervision starting Oct. 1, increasing to about 2,500 by June 30, 2012. The number is expected to grow to between 5,500 to 6,500 by the third year of the program.

State prison statistics indicate that 44 percent of those offenders are convicted for drug offenses, 41 percent for property offenses with the remaining for other crimes, according to a county report.

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