By Christina Villacorte Staff Writer
Posted: 12/23/2012 04:22:04 PM PST
Updated: 12/23/2012 04:52:07 PM PST
The first wave of felons sent to county jails instead of state prisons under Gov. Jerry Brown’s public safety realignment plan are back on the streets after serving their sentences, and local law enforcement officials are worried they will trigger a spike in crime.
Almost all of the felons are under no obligation to report to a parole agent or probation officer, and many did not get job training and other rehabilitation services while behind bars.
“Of those 9,000 who have been sentenced to jail in lieu of prison, about 90 percent of them are going to come out without supervision by a probation officer or a parole agent,” county Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers said during a recent meeting of the Southern California Association of Governments.
“They’re simply going to walk out of jail a free person, and we will have no ability to compel them to engage in drug treatment, mental health treatment or anything of that sort,” he added. “As soon as they hit that public sidewalk, they are truly free.”
Realignment, also known as AB 109, is the governor’s way of complying with a Supreme Court mandate to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.
Among the strategies for lowering the inmate population is to send most felons sentenced with non-serious, non-violent and non-sex crimes to county jails instead.
If the felons had stayed in state prisons, they would have been required by state law to report to parole agents for one or more years after their release.
They would also have been ordered to stay away from their victims, and been subject to warrantless searches. Some might also have been compelled to undergo services to ease their re-entry into society.
Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michel Moore said realignment provided no such “safety net” for felons diverted to county jails.
“It’s a pretty big omission in the statute,” added Deputy District Attorney Kraig St. Pierre, in charge of the county DA’s Parole Revocation Section.
But Luis Patino, a spokesman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, noted realignment does not prevent felons from being supervised after their release from county jail, but leaves it to the decision of a judge.
“AB 109 does not inhibit judges from placing an offender on probation supervision once they leave jail,” he said. “Superior Court judges are given that discretion through split sentencing.”
Under split sentencing, a four-year jail term, for example, can be converted to two years behind bars and two years under probation.
According to a recent study by the Chief Probation Officers of California or CPOC, however, it is used very rarely in Los Angeles County.
Since realignment took effect in October 2011 through June 2012, only 370 out of 6,800 AB 109 felons were given split sentences.
That’s only 5 percent, when most other counties in the state use split sentences at least 40 percent of the time. A few apply it to 100 percent their cases.
Moore said jail terms should automatically come with a so-called “supervision tail,” which allows local law enforcement officers to keep tabs on felons who are back in the community.
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