Unintended Consequences of Criminal Offenders Being Transferred from State Prison to County Jail

The growing population of over 150,000 inmates in state prisons in California has exceeded the level the U.S. Supreme Court opined in 2011 is permissible. There has been litigation in Federal Court to obtain a more speedy reduction of the state prison population, and a new law has been enacted as a result of the Governor and Legislature in California establishing the state’s prison realignment; this is the name given to transferring inmates to county jails to reduce the state prison population to about 110,000. A Federal three-judge court previously set June, 2013 as the deadline for California to reduce by over 37% its state prison population beyond each prison’s building capacity. The date was recently extended to February, 2016.  This narrative has been based upon the perceived challenge of the State of California to provide adequate health care to inmates.

The Federal Court allowed this additional period of time subject to transferring state prisoners to private correctional centers and county jails in California, but not any longer to out of state facilities. This was also based upon, among other reasons, the representation of Governor Brown that shorter sentences would be imposed on non-violent criminals; issuing additional good behavior credits to prisoners so they could be eligible for an earlier release; speeding up and expanding early parole for those over 65 years of age with at least 25 years in prison; along with those who are medically incapacitated, as well as expanding the rehabilitation programs provided to inmates.

The problem is not simply the transfer of inmates to County Jails, but now the local detention facilities statewide are overcrowded. Moreover, it has been alleged there is an even greater conundrum in that far more sophisticated criminals are now incarcerated in County Jails.  For example, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department that oversees the jails in this County has reported there has been an increased number of drugs being smuggled into the jails; this drug trade that previously was typical of state prisons has now become a serious problem in county jails.  It has been reported there were 221 of these drug and alcohol cases in the San Diego County Jails in 2012, which constitutes over a 50% increase from that in 2011. There was a total of 279 of such cases in 2013, and about 335 of these particular cases between January and September, 2014.

To better address one of  these problems, San Diego has installed body scanners at a cost of $150, 000 each unit and $10,000 each year to provide service and maintenance. This month, the County Board of Supervisors also approved spending more than three-quarters of a million dollars to obtain four additional scanners and for a five year maintenance agreement. Besides visitors hiding contraband, some of those picked up for minor probation and parole violations have been smuggling drugs into the jails, as they may only be incarcerated for up to 10 days.

But what is the best solution? Clearly, we need to implement greater rehabilitation and educational programs. For the most part, we are spending the money to incarcerate people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, have a mental illness and/or do not have sufficient education and labor skills, when rehabilitation will have a far greater impact on this growing societal problem. Many advocates believe it can help to let local and state legislators know our political views, and of course, to become more involved in community programs.

 

 

STATE REPORT ON TRUANCY ‘CRISIS’

There is no doubt student truancy in the public schools in California has reached an epidemic level. As a former prosecutor serving as a Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice, I saw first hand the criminal history of countless individuals as part of my caseload. In the past three decades I have been in private practice and one of my areas of focus has been criminal defense; the same patterns have been the same and in some ways have become worse.Such individuals have many similarities, but there was and continues to be a common thread that frequently starts in elementary school.

Although not a psychologist, I have personally had enough cases in which I have utilized forensic experts to know that deviant &/or improper conduct and behavior is often an individual’s effort to cry out for help. Without intervention when an individual evinces trouble, the problem will likely escalate; it can start with a simple infraction, but often escalates to misdemeanor crimes and even felonies. While there is no substitute for loving parental guidance, it is also true that everyone needs and benefits from having personal goals; the importance of achieving even little steps towards realizing them cannot be overstated.

Whether one gets into trouble in the classroom, on the playground, comes late to school or is truant, it starts at a very young age. While many focus on the financial aspects in that schools lose money when students do not attend class, the child and society are hurt much more.We spend far too much money at the other end of the spectrum having to incarcerate than we should to educate.