Our friends at the Warren Institute have published a new paper by Rebecca Sullivan Silbert, titled Thinking Critically about Realignment in California, which you can read in full here. The nice thing about this publication is its clear and understandable language; Silbert breaks down technical complexities and makes this policy change much more accessible for all of us. Here are some highlights.

Silbert starts by delineating the difference between county jails and state prisons prior to realignment, including implications of jails’ smaller size, mandatory parole for state prisoners, and state costs stemming from the return to custody of parolees.

The paper then discusses overcrowding in state prisons, which it attributes to four factors: The gradual increase in sentencing, the labeling of more crime as violent and serious, the inability to cope with addictions and mental illness, and the mandatory parole mechanism with the potential return to prison for violations.

The main changes due to realignment are concisely discussed. They include serving one’s sentence in jail; split sentences between prison and jail, at judicial discretion;  having some state prisoners come under the auspices of community post-release programs in lieu of state parole; and sending parole violators to jail in lieu of prison.

The report then goes on to discuss the level of readiness of county institutions for the task of incarcerating more people and for longer terms, as well as the concerns about the medical and mental health needs of the new county inmates. Silbert then brings up concerns about “charging up” as well as about defense attorneys negotiating state prison because of the shorter post-sentence supervision implied.

The report does not discuss juvenile realignment, but there are plenty of other sources of information on that.

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  1. great commentary: "cuts in county level services have meant that many individuals, particularly those with substance abuse and mental health problems, have been unable to overcome their addictions, obtain treatment, find employment, and find housing. These individuals often return to crime. In general, these are not individuals who engage in serious or violent conduct"

  2. It is troubling that two parolees with the same criminal history will be subject to two different sets of rules depending upon whether they were released from prison before or after 10/1/2011. The person on state parole will be subjected to exceedingly long violation terms for very minor offenses while the one on PRCS will be subjected to incarceration of a few days at most for the same violation. The person on state parole attempting to transfer to another county will probably be unable to either because his agent doesn't feel like doing the paperwork, or the receiving county has a transfer in population of more than 5% of it's parole population, the parolee on PRCS will be granted the transfer easily and quickly. The individual on PRCS will automatically discharge parole after 12 months with no revocations, the poor sucker on state parole will not discharge after 12 months unless he/she is very, very lucky. How that can be called fair is beyond me. I wish someone would do a study on those kinds of disparities and write a report on them

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