California Governor Jerry Brown’s Public Safety Realignment (AB109) has reduced accountability for repeat felons, including sex offenders, who violate parole. Because parole violators are no longer eligible for prison, overcrowded county jails have become revolving doors providing “get out of jail free” cards for offenders who use their freedom to commit new crimes, including serious, violent, and sexual crimes. Since last March, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been monitoring crimes committed by offenders no longer eligible for prison under Realignment.
“The trend over the past year has been consistent. The state has reduced the consequences for crime under Realignment and counties are reporting that crime, including violent crime, is increasing significantly for the first time in more than a decade,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford.
According to a November 14 article from CBS 47, prior to AB109, paroled sex offenders who would have returned to prison for one year when they cut off their GPS monitor are now serving a maximum sentence of 180 days in county jail, if space is available. Some state prison officials now support making the removal of a GPS monitor a felony, and crime victim advocates may seek adoption of an initiative to overturn Realignment if the Legislature refuses to act. (KCRA 3, November 14).
With many county jails completely full, parole violators end up serving minimal time, if any at all. Statewide, more than1,100 parolees have removed required GPS monitoring devices with near impunity. Of those, 81% are sex offenders. (KCRA 3, November 14). Among these were 481 sex offenders who violated parole and served no jail time for a total of 862 arrests. (U-T San Diego, November 6).
Since Realignment, San Joaquin County Jail has exceeded its 1,255 capacity by about 100 inmates per day; 400 of these inmates are a direct result of AB109. Superior Court Judge Richard Guiliani said the San Joaquin County jail is “busting at the seams.” (The Record, October 22).
On November 13, California corrections supervisor Susan Kane, a 30-year corrections veteran, told reporters that crime in the state is the worst she has seen. Kane tracks sex offenders in San Joaquin County. She explained that some sex offenders are released from jail and back on the street within a few days of violating their parole due to overcrowding. She said, “Oh, it’s absolutely crazy, when I look at a case and we put him in jail eight times in the last month and every time we put him in jail, he gets out the next day.” Over the past two months, 50 local sex offenders had violated their parole and were released within days. About 14 have violated their parole more than once. Kane adds, “We are not doing what we should be doing, or could be doing, to protect children, or to protect women, or to protect potential victims.” (CBS 13, November 15).
Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims says the county jail has seen a 200% population increase since the implementation of AB109. Sex offender Fidel Tafoya was arrested at Fresno State for the sexual battery of a student who was sitting at a desk in the main library on campus. According to the Megan’s Law website, Tafoya has 11 aliases. He served 3 years in prison after pleading no contest to lewd acts on a child. (CBS 47, November 13). One week prior to his most recent attack, Tafoya cut off his GPS ankle monitor and had a warrant out for his arrest. He was not supposed to be on any college campuses. Since 1998, Tafoya has been charged with five felonies, three were sexual crimes. His record also includes ten misdemeanor sex offenses. In spite of his extensive record, Tafoya has never served more than 3 years in prison. According to parole officers, they could not keep Tafoya locked up this year because of AB109. (ABC 30, November 4). Since Realignment began, Tafoya has been arrested and released from jail three times: in November 2011, April 2012, and August 2012. (Pacovilla Corrections Blog, November 16). Sheriff Mims says Tafoya is a “menace to society.” He has been arrested a total of 23 times in the last decade. Regardless, Tafoya served only 50 days for his November arrest, and zero days for his April arrest. (ABC 30, November 15).
Fresno Parolee Mark McDavitt, most recently arrested for annoying/molesting a child, has been arrested and released six different times over the past year for parole violations, including spending time in a park while children are present. McDavitt’s criminal record includes three separate counts of indecent exposure between 2003 and 2009. (ABC News 30, September 21).
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas began implementing a program that electronically monitors minor offenders to free up space in the jail. Some minor offenses include theft, drug crimes, and drunk driving. Freitas said, “We’re getting more lower-level offenders out and more sophisticated offenders in.” (The Press Democrat, October 31). However, under AB109, so-called “triple-nons” are removing the trackers with little or no fear of returning to jail.
An October 25 article from KGET News 17 discusses the impact Realignment is having on Kern County. There are hundreds of criminals who are wearing GPS monitors. According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, the current punishment for cutting off an ankle monitor is a maximum sentence of six months in county jail of which offenders serve about 25 to 30% on average due to overcrowding. Some inmates claim to be released much sooner than that. The sheriff’s department explains the Kern County Jail capacity is 2,700 inmates, but due to Realignment the jail is moving about 4,500 extra inmates in and out at any given time. Of the parole violators now in the county, roughly 20% have violated their parole at least twice. Chief Deputy Francis Moore said the jail releases about 75 inmates a day due to overcrowding, most of which are early releases. Moore adds, “If they can commit a crime, and committing that crime has a greater value to them than doing the time, then they are going to continue to do that.” Regarding the reduced punishment, inmate Micah Howard told reporters, “That’s awesome, and I’m really blessed to have something like that because I just have to do 19 days of 135. That’s better than doing six months a year of my life.” Kern County Jail inmate and registered sex offender Jason Carter, in jail for the tenth time, agrees, “I would rather spend three weeks in jail as opposed to a five-month sentence, of course . . . . I just got out of jail last Tuesday, and I am back already.”
On October 23, Pacovilla Corrections Blog discussed an anonymous letter received via post that was sent to the Office of State Auditor by California Department of Corrections Division of Adult Parole Operations members. In 7 counties, about 150 sex offenders have removed their GPS tracking monitors, are living with children or are loitering where children are present. The offenders know jails are full and they will not serve a lengthy sentence. Nothing happens to take parole violators off the street for any reasonable period until a child is assaulted and victimized.
In addition to the increased crime being caused by the thousands of habitual felons left in counties under Realignment, a November 10 story in The Los Angeles Times reports that the state is now in the process of voiding arrest warrants on 9,200 criminals who have violated parole and are at large in California communities. Corrections spokesperson Jeffery Callison said, “I have been told that discharging people is not the point of the exercise.” However, recent history, including the Governor’s record-setting parole of convicted murderers (KABC, February 12), suggests that the opposite is true. “This is as close as just letting people go as we’ve come,” parole agent Todd Gillam told the Times.
Dropping criminals from parole can have tragic consequences. The Times story cites the early November murder of two people at a Fresno chicken processing plant by a criminal released from parole over the objections of his parole agent. The gunman, Lawrence Jones, was discharged from parole last May. He committed suicide after the murders.