Over the year since AB109, the Governor's Public Safety Realignment law took effect, press releases and public statements by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) have reported that the new law is working well at reducing state costs, lowering the prison inmate population, and reducing recividism rates. Realignment, which went into effect in October 2011, transfers responsibility for thousands of habitual felons released from prison from the state to counties. The law also severely limits which habitual felons can be returned to prison for committing new felonies or violating parole.
In a late October 2012 press release, the CDCR reported on a study indicating that, the recividism rate for inmates released in 2007-2008 dropped and that the California Static Risk Assessment (CSRA) and the Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument (PVDMI), were proven effective. Under Realignment, these tools are being used to determine which felons should be considered "low risk” of reoffending, and therefore subject only to treatment programs or brief terms in county jails, for parole violations or convictions of new crimes which are categorized as non-serious, non-violent, or non-sexual.
Northern and Central California law enforcement leaders see things differently, and the increases in crime in communities across the region seem to validate their concerns.
AB109 is "probably the worst piece of legislation I've ever seen . . . . We were not prepared for this dump of what we got,” said Kern Sheriff Donny Youngblood. "We know some of these people are going to re-offend . . . . We know that realignment's going to cause more victims . . .” (Bakersfield Now, November 5).
Kern County Probation Chief David Kuge said, "We've seen close to an increase of about 800 more felony probationers than we did at this time last year . . . . We are not getting low-level offenders, . . . we're getting very serious, and dangerous, and violent people back to supervise at the community level.” (Bakersfield Now, November 5).
Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano estimated that almost half of the county's triple-nons are being mislabeled. Solano said, "This has been our biggest concern . . . . In the first year, we've seen a 60/40 split with 60 percent being true non-, non-, non- and the remaining 40 percent not fitting that classification.” (Mercury News, October 27).
Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee told reporters, "Triple non' does not necessarily mean non-significant, non-sophisticated, non-prolific or non-victim. These significant, sophisticated, prolific criminals are now receiving less serious consequences.” (Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 27).
San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Richard Guiliani told the Stockton Record on October 22, "People who are dangerous don't limit themselves to dangerous crimes.”
A September report by the Public Policy Institute of California—which found that property crimes, including vehicle thefts and burglary, have risen since Realignment in comparison with the previous year—is being confirmed in real time by police and prosecutors.
According to Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo, "Crime is beginning to climb again because we have a whole bunch of changes going through like, realignment . . . . The rise in crime and really the impact of the quality of life with our citizens and our community.” (KION News 46, November 2).
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said, "In this last year we are already seeing increased crime as a direct result of realignment of state inmates into our local jails that has led to diminished supervision, shorter sentences, and the forced release (or nonacceptance for booking) of many offenders at the local levels.” (Sacramento Bee, October 25).
Shafter Police Chief Greg Richardson said, "We've had an uptick in property crimes. It's a heck of a coincidence that this started right when realignment came about.” (Bakersfield Now, November 5).
The Kern County Sheriff recently told reporters, "There's no question in my mind that our spike in property crimes is directly related to realignment . . . . I think we're up 20 percent increase in property crimes, burglary thefts . . . . We're going to have more property criminals on the streets . . . . When you have people who are getting out of jail early, and committing crimes—specifically property crimes—it has to increase.” (Bakersfield Now, November 5).
An October 27 story in the San Jose Mercury News reported that property crime in Santa Cruz has increased by 7 percent from January to October of 2012 compared to the same period last year.
On October 4, habitual felon Javier Zepeda Solis, on county supervision under Realignment, led Watsonville police officers on a high speed chase when they tried to stop his car. Carrying a gun, Solis had abandoned his vehicle and broke into an apartment where a young teenage girl was sleeping. He was arrested for evading police, being in possession of stolen property, a felon in possession of a firearm, and burglary. Solis has a criminal record that includes six theft-related felony convictions. His last conviction was for a misdemeanor gang crime felony, classifying Solis as a low-level offender. (Mercury News, October 27).
Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Charlie Baum, who prosecuted Solis said, "The way realignment is working now, you can steal as many cars as you want and we can't send you to prison . . . . And my concern with Solis is that his behavior has clearly escalated.” Santa Cruz DA Bob Lee told reporters, "One of the weaknesses of AB109 is that . . . it reduces the confinement for those who should be imprisoned . . . . Any drug dealer no matter how many times he has been previously convicted of dealing methamphetamine, heroine or cocaine, now, due to AB109, cannot be confined to state prison. No matter how large the quantities.” (Mercury News, October 27).
Sonoma District Attorney Jill Ravitch "fears the elimination of prison reduces the incentive for some people to obey the law. Most felonies are no longer prison eligible and people sent to jail are serving half time because of a change in the way credits are accrued.” (The Press Democrat, October 31). This is leading to an increase in property crime in counties.
Responding to this, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation President Michael Rushford stated, "Before his recent retirement as Secretary of the CDCR, Matthew Cate, characterized the criminals that Realignment has dumped on California counties as ‘lightweight' offenders, but local police, prosecutors and judges are telling us these criminals are committing serious crimes. Who, may I ask, should we believe?”