Release Date:  August 21, 2012
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been tracking the impact of Governor Brown’s Realignment Law (AB109) since it took effect in October 2011. Under Realignment, inmates who are classified as nonserious, nonviolent, and nonsexual offenders are sent to local jails instead of California state prisons or put under community supervision. However, these Post-Release Community Supervision inmates (PRCS) could have prior convictions for murder or sexual offenses as long as their most recent conviction was for a nonserious, nonviolent, and nonsexual crime.

LAPD Sgt. Jeff Nuttall states, “Some of the people who are on this program are absolutely dangerous career criminals.” (Daily News, April 21).

In fact, one prisoner who was segregated in a secure housing unit in Pelican Bay, where the state’s worst criminals are incarcerated, was put on probation through California’s Realignment. (Daily Bulletin, July 22).

According to the minutes of a recent Los Angeles county meeting on Realignment, “Thus far, over 7000 inmates released. 4227 (about half of those released) have been screened. Of the 4227, 2692 showed at the assessment center for a full AOD assessment (63.6%). Of those assessed, 1176 (43.7%) were referred to treatment and of those 545 (46.3%) have shown to treatment. So, looking at the overall numbers, of the more than 7000 released, 545 have entered treatment for AOD (less than 8%).”

“This means that less than half of the offenders referred to programs are even showing up,” said Foundation president Michael Rushford.

In San Francisco, there are 306 inmates who were released under PRCS. On average, each of them has been previously convicted of eight felonies, and more than half convicted of violent, sexual, or weapons-related offenses. San Francisco Adult Probation Chief Stills said, “the population is high-risk with high needs.” (SF Gate, July 16).

Carl Landry, a San Bernardino Probation Department supervisor, said that there is an increased number of high-level or leading gang members which have been released as a result of AB109. (Daily Bulletin, July 22).

In Lancaster, more than 300 offenders were released under partial supervision to Los Angeles probation officers since Realignment began. Nearly 200 of these offenders have been rearrested for new crimes or charges. (Los Angeles Times, July 26).

From October 2011 to July 2012, 3054 offenders were released into PRCS in San Bernardino. Of that number, 606 of them have been rearrested for new offenses, consisting of 489 felonies and 117 misdemeanors. Another 5 percent were re-incarcerated for technical probation violations. (Daily Press, July 3).

Hesperia Capt. Steve Higgins said, “Of the 88 burglaries committed since 2011,...49 of them were committed by four people — two of whom were PRCS probationers. And of those 49, he said nearly 30 burglaries can be linked back to one PRCS probationer.” (Daily Press, July 3)

Scott Herman, a sex offender from Santa Rosa, violated the terms of his parole within two weeks of being released under AB109. He was found by his parole officer following young girls around and behaving suggestively in a Walmart. He has been convicted of indecent exposure and molesting children six times (including parole violations) since 1996. Rather than serving his full one-year sentence in a California prison, he served only two and a half months in the Sonoma County Jail. (AB 109’s Most Wanted, Assembly Republican Caucus).

Beyond having dangerous offenders in California’s communities, there has also been an undeniable increase in overall crime in the state, including violent and property crime, in such cities as Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Lancaster, San Francisco, Redding, Chico, Antioch, and in Kern County.

On January 11, the Lead Type reported that from 2010 to 2011, overall crime in Los Angeles County patrolled by Sheriffs decreased by 4.25%, 13.81% decline in violent crimes, and 1.81% decline in serious property crimes. However, in a year-to-date comparison of July 31 of 2011 to 2012 in Los Angeles, violent crimes are up by 4.91%, from 7426 to 7791, and property crimes are up by 6.07%, from 31,853 to 33,787.

The Lancaster Sheriff’s Department reported “that violent crimes, which include murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, increased by 16% in Lancaster during the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2011. Homicides increased from four murders to eight.” (Los Angeles Times, July 26).

According to San Francisco Police Commander John Loftus, the city had seen a 16% increase in burglaries and 12% rise in stolen vehicles as of the end of June. Many of the arrests in those cases were offenders released by AB109. (SF Gate, July 16).

Lt. Jennifer Gonzales of the Chico Police Department said, “criminals know the charges that will keep them out of prison and sometimes jail so they will take the risk and commit the offense.” (Chico Enterprise-Record, July 26).

Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando told the City Council in July that all crimes in the first 6 months of 2012, compared to 2011, are up. Property crimes have increased from 1,566 in 2011 to 2,487 in 2012, and violent crimes have increased 45.6% primarily due to aggravated assaults. (Contra Costa Times, July 24).

Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti says that between January and May, the crime rate went up 43% in 2012 in comparison with 2011. According to the Redding Police Department, the top 15 realigned offenders have been arrested 269 times for crimes, including burglary, theft, trespassing, public intoxication, and parole violations. (Redding Record Searchlight, July 21).

Since AB 109 went into effect, property crimes in Fresno have been on the rise and violent crimes have increased in the city. (ABC Local, July 17). Sheriff Margaret Mims of Fresno County said that law enforcement officials “say people engaging in nonviolent offenses like property crime no longer fear being sent to prison.” (The New York Times, August 5).

Through July 2012, Fresno’s homicides were already at 32, only 3 short from the 35 total homicides in 2011. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer explains that because jails have become overcrowded since AB 109 took effect, gang members, who are responsible for a majority of Fresno’s murders this year, are not serving very much of their sentences before being released into community supervision. (CBS47, July 17).

For example, one of Fresno’s top five car thieves, Tino Tufono, has been in and out of jail more than a dozen times in the last year because car theft no longer carries a state prison sentence, allowing for Tufono’s early release. Weeks after being put on PRCS, he became a leading suspect in a Fresno murder. He was considered a threat to civilians and officers during a citywide manhunt leading to his arrest. (AB 109’s Most Wanted, Assembly Republican Caucus).

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, “This misinformation that’s out there that the downsizing of the prison population only impacts those that are non-violent, non-serious is not serious. We’ve already had three murders over the past two months that are individuals under re-alignment.” (ABC Local, July 17).

In Oakland, homicides may be on track for an increase. In 2011, Oakland had a total of 110 homicides. By August, 2012, the city already had 75. (Harry Harris Oakland Tribune, August 20).

In Hesperia, probationer Jose Luis Lopez and parolee Carlos Santos Montenegro, both with repeat arrests and on PRCS, were arrested after shooting into a home and a pursuit which ended in officers ramming their patrol unit into their vehicle. Both face charges of attempted murder. (San Bernardino County Sun, July 11).

One Hesperia offender, Samuel Ray Castellanos, on PRCS for prior convictions of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, burglary, and several drug offenses, was arrested for allegedly assaulting and car jacking a man. (Daily Bulletin, July 22).

Theft rates have also shown an overall increase since realignment, with police focusing on serious offenders rather than thieves. (Contra Costa Times, July 24).

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said that even though an inmate’s “current charge might be a burglary, something that’s considered non-violent, . . . those are the kinds of crimes that cause the most problems with our public, especially when they’re happening over and over again.” (ABC Local, July 17).

Data provided by San Bernardino County Sheriffs shows burglaries in the county have significantly increased. The city of Hesperia suffered the largest increase with 56%, going from 158 burglaries by April 2011 to 246 by April 2012. (Daily Press, July 3).

Two former state prison inmates, a parolee and a Realignment release prisoner, are suspected in the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy in Richmond on August 4. One suspect, parolee Jacob Stevens, is currently in custody. The other, Matthew John Capanis, surrendered August 8. Capanis has a lengthy history of weapons violations, but his most recent arrest was for spousal abuse—considered a minor, nonviolent offense—which is why he was free under Realignment despite his history. (SF Chronicle, August 8 & Pacovilla corrections blog, August 8).

“The Realignment law is causing the injury and death of innocent Californians. The Legislature should repeal it before things get even worse,” said Rushford.

Foundaton President Michael Rushford can be reached for comment at 916-446-0345.