While academics, politicians and corrections officials have been lauding the success of Governor Jerry Brown's "Public Safety Realignment" law (AB109) at reducing the state prison population, the law's historic shift in responsibility for most felons to California counties has had a major negative impact in many LA area communities. Prior to Realignment, only inmates awaiting trial for cases such as murder were in jail longer than a year. Today, habitual criminals convicted of most theft and drug felonies and some types of assault, can receive multi-year sentences in local jails which were not designed for long term inmates. Counties face increased threats to public safety as some prisoners, even repeat offenders, are released early because jails simply do not have the resources or the capacity needed to handle the influx. County jails are not only expected to provide room for realigned criminals, money must also be found to fund prison programs such as education, treatment, rehabilitation, and recreation. The number of criminals needing these services is only expected to increase (KTVU, February 28).
According to LA County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, there have been 11,473 criminals sentenced to LA County jail rather than prison since Realignment began in October 2011. Among these offenders, 40 are serving sentences between 8 and 40 years. Currently there are more than 43,000 inmates serving sentences in local jails rather than state prison. This is expected to increase to 52,000 by 2014. Under Realignment, LA County misdemeanor offenders are serving about 10-15% of their sentences prior to release. Once maximum jail capacities are met, the amount of time served will continue to decrease.
Crime reports from both the LA County Sheriff and Probation Departments indicate that property crimes across the county have increased dramatically over the last 12 months. For example, burglaries have increased by 175% in Hawaiian Gardens, 172% in Walnut, 130% in Lomita, 100% in Artesia, 92% in La Mirada, 80% in Rosemead, 50% in Compton, 45% in South Los Angeles, and 32% in Cerritos. Auto theft has jumped by 365% in Artesia, 152% in Crescenta Valley, 120% in San Dimas, 100% in Marina Del Rey, 107% in Maywood, 92% in Bellflower, 73% in Cudahy, 57% in Duarte, and 50% in Palmdale.
The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been tracking crime in California communities since Realignment took effect. In February, the Foundation reported that, according to a preliminary report from the FBI for the first six months of 2012, California saw across-the-board increases in all crime categories after 15 years of declining crime. Among the most alarming findings was a 7.6% increase in homicide. The victims include four people murdered execution style in a Northridge boarding house on December 2, 2012. Habitual felon Ka Pasasouk, who was free on probation due to Realignment, was arrested for the killings.
More recently, police are searching for Tobias Dustin Summers for the March 24, early morning bedroom abduction of a 10-year-old southern California girl. The victim was found 12 hours later wandering near a Starbucks several miles from her home. She had been sexually assaulted. In spite of prior convictions for robbery, auto theft, and kidnapping, Summers was released from prison to county probation instead of state parole under Realignment. He served six days in jail last January for violating probation which before Realignment would have resulted in his being sent back to state prison.
Referring to this case Foundation President Michael Rushford said, "Governor Brown owns Realignment. He supported its passage, he signed it into law, he defends it, and he refuses to abolish it in the face of the crimes like this it has caused. Unfortunately, this incident gives a new meaning to the term 'Jerry's kids,' " he added.