California Governor Jerry Brown’s Realignment plan was promoted as good for public safety because instead of cycling in and out of state prisons, thousands of criminals would receive rehabilitative services locally. But since Realignment took effect last October, law enforcement officials are reporting that offenders are now cycling in and out of county jails that don’t have the capacity to hold them, and many counties lack the funds and resources to even supervise offenders they are now responsible for under the new law. Criminals released early from jail, probation, and parole are also not getting access to services, and those who continue to commit crimes are receiving minimal punishment. As a result, counties across California are reporting increased crime.
In Fresno County, KMPH Fox 26 on June 13 quoted Chief Jerry Dyer, “We did not have the local jail capacity at the lower level to house these individuals that were shifted to local communities. And we did not have the ability to supervise them, to provide them the treatment that they need. And they’re out there involved in criminal activity.” KCOY reported May 17 that a San Luis Obispo Grand Jury’s Annual Jail Inspection report found Realignment is contributing to an already overcrowded situation at the county’s jail. The report said the overcrowding is causing a reduction in inmate services.
On June 5, Recordnet.com reported that, regarding jail overcrowding, San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore said, “not having enough space removes the threat of incarceration that keeps offenders in programs,” he added. Moore also said that local police departments are concerned because, before Realignment, parole violators would serve 90 days in state prison, but now “they’re seeing them back after two or three weeks.”
Under Realignment, parolees are now eligible to be discharged from supervision after only six months, whereas previously they remained supervised for at least a year. The Los Angeles Times reported June 8 that about 8,500 parolees were taken off supervision in April, compared to about 1,300 in March. If released from prison in October, the month Realignment went into effect, April would have been the first month those parolees were eligible for review under the new law. “We will no longer have the ability to violate their parole based on criminal behavior but rather we will have to arrest and prosecute them on a new charge, which is resource-intensive and time-consuming,” said Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell.
In Stanislaus County, The Modesto Bee reported June 4 that in the first three months of 2012, felony filings increased nine percent.
On June 13, KMPH Fox 26 reported that the city of Fresno had 36 shootings and eight murders in the previous 28 days. The city’s average for the same period is 21 shootings and two murders. Chief Jerry Dyer said three offenders, placed on post-release community supervision after being designated as non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenders, had committed murder in Fresno in the last two months.
The Bakersfield Californian reported on June 2 that Kern County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Steve Pederson said from October 2011 to April 2012, compared to October 2010 to April 2011, burglaries rose 21 percent. “It seems to indicate that there’s going to be an exponential increase (in property crime) as crooks figure out what’s going on,” Pederson said.
Kern County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Kevin Zimmermann said, as reported by The Bakersfield Californian June 2, it’s “logical” to assume Realignment is behind the increase in property crime. Zimmerman said the sheriff’s department had released early more than 1,000 parolees since October. He also said about 1,082 non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders had been arrested throughout the county from October 1 to May 1. As of mid-May, the county had released 613 of those offenders, and approximately 190 of those had been rearrested. Bakersfield Police Sgt. Jason Townsend also said Realignment is behind the increase in burglaries. “We are arresting the same suspects repeatedly sometimes,” he said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported June 6 that as of the end of May, preliminary data shows that overall incidents of reported violent crimes has increased 3.44 percent and incidents of reported serious property crimes have increased by 6.39 percent countywide, compared to the same time last year.
On June 12, the Hesperia Star reported Robert Clinton Lane was arrested in San Bernardino County for attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and elder abuse after he allegedly beat and stabbed his parents. His father is wheel-chair bound. Lane was on post-release community supervision and had been living with his parents. Court records show Lane had previously been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, battery, disorderly conduct, and carrying a knife.
On June 12, the Hanford Sentinel reported on the case of Rafael Torres Andrade, a Bulldog gang member on post-release community supervision in Fresno County for felony evasion. He led police, who suspected him of being a drunken driver, on a chase in which he reached 110 miles per hour, dodged into opposing traffic, and turned off his headlights. He was also wanted by the Hanford Police Department for burglary and identity theft. It was later determined that the car he was driving had been stolen prior to the pursuit.
A June 2 story in the The Bakersfield Californian quotes Kern County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Steve Pederson saying that offenders are starting to realize that if they’re sentenced for property crimes, they won’t do much jail time. One criminal even told Pederson’s deputies that now is the time to commit the crime.
Two articles published on June 2 in the Modesto Bee provide additional details about the impact of Realignment on California’s Central Valley. The stories by Bee journalists Erin Tracy and Garth Stapley report that there has been an overall increase in crime this year in Modesto, with robberies up by 43 percent, burglary by 41 percent, and auto thefts by 20 percent. These are the types of crimes designated as non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual by Realignment, resulting in supervision by counties instead of state parole and sentences in county jails instead of state prison.
“To see these significant increases in such a short period of time, I truly do think what is driving our crime is prison realignment,” Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden said, as quoted by Bee. “People who would otherwise be in jail are now on our streets.”
According to Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said there are some offenders for whom she can longer use the threat of prison to deter them from committing more crimes.
“Ain’t no one really worried about going to jail,” said Matthew Aure, a 23-year-old convicted drug user and car thief. “They know they are going to get out early,” Aure told county probation officers during a home visit.
The Bee reported that Deamus Woodward should have been serving a two-year prison term for petty theft when he was found with a stolen computer. Instead he had been released early from county jail and was arrested on suspicion of burglarizing a Modesto home within a week and a half. Woodward is a convicted felon whose criminal history in Stanislaus County goes back to 2001.
The Bee story noted that some victims are questioning the definitions of non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual in the Realignment legislation. “It is absolutely serious. My children could have been home. It is violent,” said Patty Justice, whose home was burglarized in February in Stanislaus County. Damarea Reese was arrested a month after the burglary on suspicion of possessing stolen property in the case, but that charge was dropped in exchange for Reese’s guilty plea in a grand theft auto case. He served half of his 60-day sentence, and has been seen several times back in Justice’s neighborhood. “We are law-abiding citizens who get victimized by these punks and the criminal justice system victimizes us again,” she said.
“People talk about ankle monitors and leaving before their time is up,” said drug dealer and three-time felon Charlie Ross, during an interview. “That’s good, because in the pen you don’t get out until your time is done, but here you get out on ankle monitoring and AWP.” Ross had been on post-release community supervision for a few months before receiving a six-year split sentence for his latest offense.
“Many Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and even criminals agree that Realignment encourages more crime,” said Michelle Herson, Public Policy researcher with the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.