Stakeholders Have Varying Opinions on California Prison Realignment
Law enforcement and judicial stakeholders have varied opinions of California's prison realignment plan, according to a new report by the Stanford University Criminal Justice Center, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.
The report is the second in a planned series examining the state's effort to reduce prison overcrowding (Walters, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 11/11).
In 2006, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the state's prison health care system was needed after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of medical malpractice or neglect.
To help curb prison overcrowding, the state implemented a plan by Brown to send inmates convicted of lower-level crimes to county jails (California Healthline, 4/2).
Details of Report
For the report, Stanford Law School researchers interviewed 125 stakeholders in 21 California counties.
- Defense attorneys;
- Probation and parole officers;
- Victim advocates;
- Offenders; and
- Social service representatives (Stanford University report, November 2013).
Researchers found that stakeholders' opinions "varied widely, and their comments reflected their role in the system more than the county they represented."
Probation officers were most supportive of realignment, according to the report.
Public defenders also supported the plan, but they "expressed concerns about the longer county jail terms their clients face and the conditions under which they are served," the report stated.
Prosecuting attorneys largely opposed realignment because they lost discretion under the plan.
Judges also were concerned about the loss of discretion and said that realignment "greatly increased the courts' workload."
Law enforcement officials "varied more than any other group" in their opinions about realignment. The report said that their opinions were "largely influenced by local jail capacity." Researchers said that all law enforcement officers who responded are "worried about declining public safety."
The report recommended that prisoners' entire record -- rather than most recent offense -- be considered when determining whether they should be moved to local jails. Report authors said that inmates with extensive records should be kept in state prisons.
The report also recommended that the state:
- Create a statewide database of offenders;
- Limit local jail terms to three years; and
- Require stricter terms for habitual "technical" violations of parole ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 11/11).