CURB has reviewed the realignment plans of thirteen key counties in California. We selected the following counties because they imprison the largest number of people in our state, send the largest share of people to state prison or are counties within which the majority of CURB members live and work.
CURB looked at the balance between community-based alternatives and plans to expand jail capacity. Like many other Californians, CURB believes that simply shifting people from State prison to County jail is a false solution to our prison and budget crisis. Realignment can most safely and effectively be implemented by using alternative sentencing and community-based reentry services instead of costly and ineffective jail expansion. Realignment should not be used as an excuse to expand policing, probation or jails. Realignment should not push forward AB 900, the largest prison construction scheme in human history. AB 900 authorized $7.4 billion in lease revenue bonds for the construction or expansion of California’s prisons, jails and re-entry centers. If realignment is to be successful, it must move away from financially and socially disastrous expansion plans, and invest in supporting people returning to our communities.
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is a broad-based coalition of over 40 organizations seeking to CURB prison spending by reducing the number of people in prison and the number of prisons in the state.
What did we find?
- Counties that Pass: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara. These counties are focused on providing alternatives to incarceration for people returning home.
- Counties that received an Incomplete: Alameda, Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, Los Angeles. These counties are looking at a mix of treatment services and alternatives to jail, but are also looking at jail expansion. They can still receive a pass if they dedicate realignment resources to re-entry support and halt jail expansion plans.
- Counties that Fail: Fresno, Kern, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Mateo. These counties have focused on expanding jail capacities and have failed to invest in re-entry support.
San Francisco: Pass. San Francisco County will receive $5 million.[i] San Francisco County is leading the way in expanding alternatives to incarceration. The County realignment plan includes electronic monitoring, home detention, residential treatment beds, restorative justice classes, substance abuse services, parenting classes, the 5 Keys Charter High School, utilizing the Clean Slate Program, employment counseling and services, and transitional housing. The County is also considering establishing a sentencing commission in hopes of reducing recidivism.[ii]
Santa Cruz: Pass. Santa Cruz County will receive $1.6 million.[iii] Jails are at 125 percent capacity, but the county has decided there is no need to increase jail space and is expanding alternatives.[iv] Custody alternatives such as community service, work furlough and electronic monitoring, as well as anger management and other programs, are likely to expand.[v] Ultimately, the County hopes to save tax dollars and improve public safety. “We need to be smart about how we use that money,” Sheriff Phil Wowak said. “I don’t want to increase (jail) capacity because it doesn’t help the problem.”[vi]
Santa Clara: Pass. Santa Clara County will receive $12.5 million.[ix] The Santa Clara County plan calls for an almost even three-way split of the bulk of the realignment funding between the Probation Department, the Sheriff’s Department and programs like drug treatment, mental health care and job training.[x] Santa Clara is proposing to dedicate about $3.8 million — or about 25 percent of the $15 million it will receive this year from the state — to treatment programs; about $2.9 million will go into a reserve and about $3.3 million each to the sheriff for jails and the probation department.[xi]
Alameda: Incomplete. Alameda County will receive $9.2 million.[vii] The new Alameda County Chief Probation Officer wants to lead his department in a new direction, one that focuses on prevention. David Muhammad, an Oakland native, favors an approach that promotes incentives to good behavior, rehabilitation and alternatives to incarceration. These are the kinds of methods, according to Muhammad, that get the best results – fewer people in prison and on probation and parole.[viii]However, despite lots of encouraging talk about the need for wrap-around services and support, there is a looming threat that the County will expand its capacity to lock up juveniles by using the currently empty Juvenile facility. Alameda County seems to be moving in the right direction, but needs to commit to not expanding its capacity to incarcerate young adults.
Contra Costa: Incomplete. Contra Costa County will receive $4.5 million.[xii] At least 50 percent of the budget would go the sheriff’s office for staffing and jail management. Part of this budget also includes electronic monitoring and mental health court. 22 percent of the budget funds will go toward probation for supervision, with about 20 percent for health services like outpatient services and drug treatment. Michael Casten, Undersheriff for Contra Costa Sheriff Department, said the sheriff’s office will submit a letter of intent for AB900, or lease-revenue bond financing, for jail construction within their existing facilities.[xiii] Contra Costa is taking a step in the right direction by pursing grants for a countywide strategic reentry plan that focuses on rehabilitation and reentry services rather than law enforcement.[xiv]
Riverside: Incomplete. Riverside County will receive $21.4 million.[xv] Riverside County will be finalizing its realignment plan in the coming weeks. They are looking at a mix of “supervision, treatment, and custody,” potentially allocating between $4.2 and $8.4 million for mental health services through the County. Officials talk of wanting to do things “differently” from how they have been done in the past and work to help people re-integrate successfully. County Supervisor John Benoit says, “when you see the people being warehoused in the cafeteria and what used to be vocational training facilities and there’s none of that going on, I think there’s a good potential.”[xvi] However, the jails are already close to capacity and under court order to not add new beds unless it is accompanied by housing. The Sheriff and local Police Departments have been pushing hard for an increased law enforcement budget and capacities. The Probation Office has already added 100 new staff.[xvii] The police are proposing a multipolice department “Career Criminal Apprehension Team,” which has been tabled for the moment. Both departments have been quoted emphasizing the need for more incarceration, emphasizing the “hard” nature of prisoners.[xviii] If Riverside County wants to pass, they will have to invest more in their service provision and move away from the influence of the Sheriff and Police Departments.
Sacramento: Incomplete. Sacramento County will receive $13.1 million.[xix] A facility at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center may be re-opened, an expensive option that may not be necessary if the county sincerely pursues non-incarceration alternatives.[xx] Historically, Sacramento supervisors have favored law enforcement over prevention programs, but these policies have not helped the County’s crime rates, which have been the highest among California’s eight largest counties from 1999 to 2009. Chief Probation Officer Meyer and others have acknowledged that incarceration is costly and ultimately unsuccessful.[xxi] The Probation Department has proposed two programs for the realignment plan – a day-reporting center and supervision for suspects released before trial. Other proposals made by local and county government agencies and nonprofit organizations address life skills, substance abuse and other issues.
Los Angeles: Incomplete. Los Angeles County will receive $112.5 million.[xxii] In Los Angeles County, Sheriff Lee Baca and other officials warn daily of dire consequences and demand more funding for massive expansion of jail capacity.[xxiii] Both the Sheriff’s Department and the Probation Department have faced federal scrutiny for poor management and prisoner abuses.[xxiv] In addition to jail expansion, LA County is investigating other policies that could undermine successful re-entry, such as using “flash incarceration,” which allows the Probation Department to incarcerate an individual up to 10 days without a hearing, contracting with community correctional facilities in the San Joaquin Valley to house prisoners, and increasing the number of long-term prisoners housed in fire camps.[xxv] While there will be money for mental health, substance abuse and re-entry counselors, and community-based organizations have been included as potential service providers in the, it is not clear how much money will be allocated to services.
Fresno: Fail. Fresno County will receive $8.8 million.[xxvi] While the Probation Department’s portion of the realignment plan calls for a commendable expanded use of evidence-based programs to deal with the re-entry population, the plan also allocates nearly 64 percent of the county’s total realignment funding to the sheriff, who intends to open an additional 860 jail beds.[xxvii]
Kern: Fail. Kern County will receive $10.8 million, with 43 percent of the money going to Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood for new deputies, jail beds and programs to manage prisoners. 40 percent would go to Kern County Chief Probation Officer David Kuge. The rest would be divided up among mental health, drug treatment and job training programs. And that tack, critics said, is exactly what landed Californian’s prison system in the mess it’s in. Advocates say the decision sets the county up for a spectacular failure. “Without any kind of recidivism prevention …,” said Lily Alvarez of Kern County Mental Health, “you’re going to put people back into the jail.”[xxviii] Sherriff Youngblood is the Chair of the Executive Steering Committee responsible for Phase II of AB 900 jail construction projects.
San Bernardino: Fail. San Bernardino County will receive $25.7 million.[xxix] The County is increasing jail capacity by adding 1,368 maximum-security beds at Adelanto Detention Center under the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The project will be funded by a combination of lease-revenue bonds made available by AB 900 and county funds. The Adelanto Detention Center expansion project will be coordinated by San Bernardino County and is expected to be completed in June 2013. The Adelanto Detention Center expansion project will total approximately $120 million in construction costs.
San Diego: Fail. San Diego County will receive $25.1 million and is moving forward with a costly $221.5 million dollar jail construction project to build a 1,216 bed women’s jail to “replace” the Los Colinas Detention Facility in Santee. The County received $100 million through AB 900.[xxx] To prevent local jails from bursting at the seams, the county is considering a range of options for its lowest-risk inmates: giving them lower bail, offering pretrial plea deals faster, and allowing some of them to be released with GPS monitoring and house arrest.[xxxi]
San Mateo: Fail. San Mateo County will receive 4.2 million.[xxxii] The County is one of the few Bay Area counties with crowded jails, which are 25 percent over capacity. But officials are proposing to spend their $4.2 million this year only on probation and re-entry programs, with a small slice for local law enforcement. That could radically change next year, depending on whether the state awards it millions to build a bigger jail.[xxxiii] Sheriff Greg Munks’ is looking at alternatives to a maximum security prison, including a “full build” containing 680-744 secure beds plus 88 transitional beds, and a “phased/partial build” with 488-552 secure beds and 88 transitional beds. The total price tag would be $145 to $165 million, plus annual operational costs upwards of $30 million. The County qualifies for AB900 funding and in the next year could receive part of the $1.2 billion in lease-revenue bond financing for building a new jail facility.[xxxiv]
Additional Counties seeking costly jail expansion, and in danger of Failing:[xxxv]
• Madera County pushing forward a $34 million dollar jail expansion adding 144 beds.
• Santa Barbara County to receive $56 million to build 304 new beds.
• Calaveras County pushing forward a $36 million dollar project which will add 95 beds.
• Solano County pushing forward a $93 million jail construction to add a 362 bed facility.
• Amador County to receive $22 million through AB 900 for a 89 bed jail expansion.
• San Benito County to receive $15 million through AB 900 for a 60 bed expansion.
• San Joaquin County to receive $80 million through AB 900 for a 1,280 beds jail expansion.
• San Luis Obispo County will receive $25 million through AB 900 for a 155 bed jail expansion.
CURB Report Card Media Coverage:
Community Leaders Call County’s Realignment Plans an Insult, Black Voice News 11/10/11
State tells San Mateo County not to bother applying for jail construction funds, Mercury News 10/28/11
California Can (and Should) Do Better, Just Policy Blog 10/18/11
Editorial: Horsley & Munks Attempt to Shove a New County Jail Down Our Collective Throats, Palo Alto Free Press 10/10/11
San Mateo County brews a fresh idea for new jail, SF Examiner 10/9/11
Many Counties Fail to Learn State Lessons and Continue to Expand Jail in Response to Prisoner Realignment, California Progress Report 10/6/11
San Mateo County supervisors give sheriff the nod to build big jail, Mercury News 10/4/11
Legislation Shifts State Prisoners to Local Jurisdictions, Gilroy Patch 10/4/11
County Gets High Marks in Prisoner-Shift Program, The Watsonville Patch 10/4/11
San Mateo County’s Realignment Plan Gets an ‘F‘, Bay Citizen 10/1/11
[xxv] AB 109/117 Implementation Plan, Community Corrections Partnership, County of Los Angeles