With the mounting number of murders and other violent crimes occurring as the result of Governor Jerry Brown's "Public Safety Realignment," the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation suggests that it be renamed "High-Risk Realignment." Under the Realignment law (AB109), criminals released from prison now classified by the state as "low risk" offenders are placed on Post-Release Community Supervision (PRCS) to be monitored by county probation officers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, since the implementation of AB109, only 1% of the 11,136 offenders released into the communities have been low-risk, 59% have been high-risk and 40% have been medium-risk. (November 30).
The Los Angeles County Probation Department reported California is releasing mentally disordered offenders into counties under Realignment. These offenders, called MDO's, are being decertified prior to release. This places them under local, rather than state supervision, in accordance with AB109. (KHTS News, November 26). The Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee said in a report that MDOs "present high public safety risk." (Los Angeles Times, November 30).
However, according to the California Department of State Hospitals (CDSH), "the intent of the [Mentally Disordered Offender] law is to increase public safety." The MDO law only applies to prisoners who meet six criteria. Inmates are classified as MDO if they: have a severe medical disorder; has used violence, force, or inflicted serious bodily injury; the mental disorder was a primary reason for the commission of the crime; the prisoner's mental disorder cannot be controlled without treatment; he had been in treatment for more than ninety days; and the severe mental disorder results in the inmate being a ‘substantial danger of physical harm to others.' If the prisoner meets the above criteria, the Board of Prison Hearings orders that the offender be treated by the CDSH as a condition of parole. The Board of Prison Terms would then review the parole and treatment of the offender annually. Prior to Realignment, these parolees would typically stay in the MDO program for three years. A parole violation would often result in an additional year. (Forensic Services, Mentally Disordered Offenders). By decertifying these MDOs prior to release, the state has eliminated these protections.
Realignment has also made it easier for other types of dangerous criminals to remain on the streets. On November 26, 2012, an Oakland couple began to videotape a car driving recklessly. In the car were Michael Meadows, a felon on PRCS, and accomplice James Crosby. Both men were armed. After pulling up next to the couple's car, one of the men got into the victims' car and tried to take the cell phone. The husband kicked the man out of the car as the wife drove away. Either Meadows or Crosby then fired shots at the couple, who managed to escape. These people were lucky. Both men face convictions for reckless driving, brandishing a weapon and attempted robbery. (CBS San Francisco, November 27).
Over the past month, several Californians have been murdered or assaulted by criminals released into communities under Realignment. In Northridge, probationer Ka Pasasouk was arrested for murdering four people at an unlicensed boarding house on December 2, 2012. Police responding to a report of shots fired, found the bodies at 4:30 a.m. The victims included two women, 25 and 26, and two men, 34 and 49. (Daily News, December 5). Three of the victims were found face down, two feet apart in the walkway on the left side of the house with at least one bullet wound to the head each. Pasasouk, on probation at the time of the killing, had a most recent conviction of methamphetamine possession from 2011. However, he has an extensive criminal history including second-degree burglary and assault likely to produce great bodily injury in 2006, and two separate unlawful ‘taking of a vehicle' convictions in 2004. (Los Angeles Times, December 4). He was convicted of petty theft, elevated to a felony due to his criminal history in 2010. (Daily News, December 5).
In March 2011, while in prison for the methamphetamine conviction. Pasasouk underwent a psychiatric evaluation because of concerns regarding his behavior. Because his most recent conviction was for a drug offense, under Realignment, Pasasouk was eligible for probation in January 2012. Following his release, he failed to check in with his probation officer twice. (LA Weekly, December 6). On September 6, 2012, Pasasouk was again arrested for methamphetamine possession. On September 20, 2012, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Jessica Silvers released him to county probation and a drug treatment program despite a recommendation from Los Angeles County probation that he be sent back to prison. As a condition for release, Pasasouk promised Judge Silvers that he would not come into contact with any firearms. (Los Angeles Times, December 6). On November 14, after he failed to appear at a court hearing, Judge Silvers issued an arrest warrant and a probation revocation order. However, when he arrived at court later that day, the judge dropped the warrant, deciding to let him remain free on probation. Just 18 days later, Pasasouk shot four people to death. (Daily News, December 5).
In a motion directing the probation department to report interactions with Pasasouk, Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Zev Yarolavly said, "AB109 was supposed to shift ‘low level' offenders to counties; in reality, it shifts high and ultra-high risk offenders because it ignores the offender's prior criminal history, including serious and violent offenses, and only considers the last offense." (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, December 10).
On December 4, 2012, CHP officers in Shasta County tried to pull over AB109 parolee William Kinyon on an outstanding arrest warrant. Kinyon made a U-turn, and fired multiple rounds as he drove his pickup directly at the CHP vehicle. During the high speed chase, Kinyon turned off the road and slowed down allowing two female passengers to jump from the truck, which he then used as cover as he continued to fire at the officers. The gunfight ended when Kinyon was wounded and unable to continue. He was charged with felony evading an officer, assault with a firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm. (CBS 12, December 5).
On December 9, 2012, Brian Jones, a criminal on PRCS, was arrested for murder. At about 2 a.m. that morning, Sacramento 9-1-1 dispatch received a call from a man claiming he was following a vehicle with two women in it. He told the dispatcher that one of the women had pointed a gun at him. While on the call, one of the women called Jones, telling him they were being followed. (Sacramento Today, December 9). Jones allegedly pulled up alongside the victim while he was still on the phone with police, and shot him several times. Responding officers found the dead victim in his car in the middle of the road. He had been shot multiple times in the upper body. A gun was located in a nearby area where deputies had seen Jones driving. A short time later, officers arrested Jones. (Sacramento Bee, December 9). His criminal record includes evading a police officer while recklessly driving and carrying a loaded firearm in 2011, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and attempted grand theft in 2009. (Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, Criminal Case Index).
After the enactment of AB109 in Spring 2011, officials from the Department of Corrections, legislators who voted for it, academics, and criminals' rights advocates have issued press releases, written op-ed pieces and told reporters that the Governor's Realignment law is reducing the state prison population, corrections and parole costs, and lowering the recividism rate, all without jeopardizing public safety. In one recent article which cautiously praised Realignment for meeting its stated goals, two bay area researchers complained that "a few cherry-picked local statistics and anecdotes of a handful of sensational offenses are inherently misleading and often contradicted when data for the full year is available for the whole state."
"Over the past year, we have been reporting on the hundreds of Californians who have been raped, robbed, beaten, and killed by criminals who would have been behind bars, or under far more intense supervision if Realignment had not been enacted," said CJLF President Michael Rushford. "These victims were not lab rats or collateral damage, they are friends, neighbors and family members who have had their lives damaged or ended by a law passed by politicians who have forgotten that the government's first obligation is to protect the public from criminals."