Brown Defends Prison Guard Contract

Jerry Brown’s traditional alliance with CCPOA, the prison guard union, has resumed, much to the chagrin of Republican lawmakers. The Chron reports:

Overall, the six contracts would, among other things, do away with imposed furloughs, increase state employees’ pension contributions and temporarily cut pay for a year before giving top earners a raise in 2013. Schwarzenegger negotiated the same terms with other public worker unions last fall, and lawmakers approved those contracts.

But opposition to the new agreements was fueled this week when the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded the six contracts would result in only about $179 million in savings next fiscal year for the deficit-plagued general fund, not the $308 million assumed in the 2011-12 budget approved by lawmakers last month. Those savings will disappear by 2012-13, the analyst said, when costs will begin to climb once again.

Republican lawmakers said the discrepancy is a major problem, because the state is facing a $26.6 billion deficit.

Brown’s election must have seemed a blessing to the CCPOA, who have had long and prosperous relationships with California governors and with Brown in particular (see Joshua Page’s informative post on that). Their abysmal relationship with Schwarzenegger, that culminated in a 2008 effort to recall him, is now behind them. Guard salaries were somewhat cut (to $92,000, which was subsequently balanced by allowing overtime); here are more details on the pay scale and contracts. We can expect the “toughest beat” rhetoric to resume its influence in California politics.

KPFA Report on the Juvenile Justice System

Today’s Morning Mix on KPFA included an interesting coverage of the status quo regarding juvenile justice institutions in California.

The story included interviews with Selena Teji from CJCJ and Bryan Lalock from Bay Area Legal Aid. As Teji and Lalock explained, counties offer a continuum of institutions, ranging from electronic monitoring, through community service, group homes, juvenile hall commitments, to fully locked county-run facilities (camps and ranches). The state level institutions are designed to house the “worst of the worst” and unsuitable for the needs of the juvenile population. The infrastructure is run down and violence runs rampant. There has been extensive litigation addressing the inability of state institutions to provide mental health settings and offer reentry services (the latter are much easier on the county level, where public defense has a better interface with community institutions, and where juveniles are closer to the family).

Given the atrocious status of state institutions, they would have to be replaced, but our budgetary difficulties make that impossible; initially, Governor Brown wanted to do away with all state facilities, but was faced with opposition. The new plan is a “buy back” option, in which countries could receive the money and could either handle inmates within the county or pay the state to house them in state facilities. The choice might be different between bigger and smaller counties. However, for all counties, money is an important factor; state-run institutions have exceedingly high recidivism rates.

Finally, should voters decline to reaffirm the vehicle tax, the realignment may be off, and the situation will not improve.

Listen to the whole show – it also featured a discussion of the prison industrial complex.

Impact of Juvenile Facilities Closure on Adult Criminal Court Filings

Governor Brown’s plan to shut down all DJJ facilities has been scratched, due to budgetary difficulties. Nonetheless, it is important to pay attention to two recent reports by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice on juvenile justice realignment.
The first report assesses the potential impact of DJJ institutional closures on adult charges. This, you may recall, was a cause for concern in some quarters. Nonetheless, the report finds that, while “California counties drastically vary in arrest and incarceration policies. . . even radical variations in reliance on State incarceration have no effect on juvenile crime rates or trends.” Here are the main findings:
In 2009, 24 counties employed locally self-reliant juvenile justice practices. Those counties were Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Mendocino, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Trinity, and Tulare.

In 2009, 13 counties employed State-dependent juvenile justice practices that would significantly obstruct juvenile justice reform. Those counties were Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.

The thirteen State-dependent counties accounted for 37% of juvenile felony arrests but 61% of all direct adult criminal court filings and 46% of all DJF commitments, in 2009.

Kings County is the most State-dependent county, direct filing in adult criminal court 50 times more than Los Angeles, 39 times more than San Diego, and 36 times more than San Francisco in 2009.

Twelve California counties did not utilize the state system during 2009; either for a DJF commitment or an adult criminal court filing despite experiencing juvenile felony arrests during that year (Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, and Trinity).

Despite having the highest juvenile felony arrest rate in the State, San Francisco County utilized direct adult criminal court filing one-eighth as much as the county with the lowest rate of juvenile felony arrests (El Dorado).
It would appear from the report that adult criminal court filings are a matter of organizational and prosecutorial culture, and the policies are not sensitive to the adult/juvenile divide. It is important to say that these findings make sense in the aggregate. I’m sure that, in single cases that raise true dilemmas, juvenile justice practices might be taken into account by individual prosecutors when making the call whether to charge someone as a juvenile or an adult. But the big picture does not seem to support a structural connection between the two.
The second report examined the capacity of county facilities to house juveniles. As the table shows, California counties currently have the space and infrastructure to house all juveniles who are now held in state prisons.
What does all this mean now that the governor has changed his plans? Perhaps it means that law enforcement officials making charging decisions can, and should, be more amenable to the possibility of charging juveniles with misdemeanors rather than felonies when possible. If the change does not occur as a grand top-down policy, it may have to occur as a bottom-up aggregate set of decisionmaking on the part of prosecutors.

Legislative Analyst’s Office Unhappy with Brown’s CDCR Budget

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has just issued a report critiquing Jerry Brown’s plan for the CDCR budget (which we briefly discussed just a few days ago), and it does not paint a pretty picture. LAO finds serious overbudgeting in some areas, and is deeply concerned with CDCR exceeding its budget in several areas.

General Fund support for CDCR, particularly with regard to CCPOA salaries and overtime (already on the top steps of the salary scale), appears to be excessive, and CDCR has already exceeded its authority in these matters. Among the other surprising expenditures are $55.2 million in medical transportation costs, $20.5 million in legal costs (wouldn’t it be cheaper to decrease population, which would also mean that the population decrease order would not have to be fought in court?), and $17.3 million in “empty beds” in case incarceration needs change.

The LAO report critiques the CDCR practice of notifying the legislature of budget shortfalls after the fact, thus coercing legislators to increase the budget in restrospect. Also, the budget does not take into account savings in adult parole and administration, which might mean the money could go elsewhere, where it is needed.

A particularly thorny issue is the fact that the budget assumes that CDCR will be making personnel cuts it has no intention of making absent a reduction in inmate population.

The budget, says the report, does not hold CDCR accountable regarding its expenditures, and there is no guarantee against CDCR pulling its retrospective budgeting trick again on the legislature. LAO therefore recommends that the legislature demand accountability and accuracy in the correctional budget.

More on Youth Correctional Facilities

The New York Times provides a well-written story from the Bay Citizen on the sides to the debate over Brown’s initiative to close all CA youth correctional facilities. The initiative’s roots are traced to an informal policy that

has been centered in the Bay Area after accusations of abuse and neglect at the institutions surfaced in a 2003 Alameda County lawsuit. In recent years, some local judges often refused to send young offenders to state institutions, preferring to confine them in county facilities regarded as safer and more effective.

Mr. Brown’s initiative would take that unofficial policy further. It would scrap the state juvenile justice system and shift responsibility for confining the most violent young offenders to the local level, where they are nearer to family and have more community treatment options. The move would affect the 1,300 youths in state care, down from 10,000 in 1996.

The main concerns offered by the experts featured in the story concern the lack of funding for improving local facilities and equipping them to handle severely troubled young people, as well as the concern that the intentions behind the initiative will be circumvented by opting to try more juveniles as adults. There is an additional concern over the new responsibilities shouldered by local probation officers.

Jerry Corrections Watch: Abolishing State Juvenile Facilities?

Today we begin a new CCC enterprise: Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be closely monitoring Governor Jerry Brown’s correctional policies. During the gubernatorial race, we posted on Brown’s history with corrections, and with CCPOA, as former governor and as attorney general. It will be interesting to see whether Brown follows in Schwarzenegger’s footsteps in terms of thinking outside the box (perhaps sometimes too far out) about our correctional crisis.

Brown’s new budget deviates from Schwarzenegger’s pattern of budgetary cuts in the correctional apparatus, especially compared with painful cuts to other aspects of government. In fact, the Brown administration plans
an ongoing augmentation of $395.2 million within the CDCR’s budget to correct previous budget shortfalls and more accurately reflect the operational costs within the adult institutions’ budgets. This augmentation will allow the Department to fully fund the salary and wages of authorized Correctional Officers, Sergeants, and Lieutenants, which is critical to ensuring that the adult institutions have the resources to pay security staff. The augmentation also provides funding to correct for a decline in the number of overtime hours available to CDCR to use within its adult institutions. Due to salary and wage increases for correctional officers over the last eight years, and no increase in departmental overtime funding, the overtime base does not go as far as it originally did. The use of overtime is critical to ensuring that all necessary staffing levels are maintained at CDCR’s institutions, and the decline in funded overtime hours has been a primary cause for redirections of funding from other activities.
In other respects, however, the Brown administration continues a trend from the Schwarzenegger administration: Diverting inmates from the states system to county-level jails. This move continues to draw ire from county officials, given the overcrowding in jails. The latest incarnation of these efforts is Brown’s plan to abolish the state youth correctional system and incarcerate juveniles exclusively at county-level facilities. Given the distressing facts we know about state juvenile facilities, and the decline in juvenile crime, this is not necessarily a bad idea. Barry Krisberg, however, voices a serious concern that counties will prosecute more juveniles as adults, to circumvent Brown’s policies.

Jerry Brown and Prisons

With Gavin Newsom’s departure from the gubernatorial race, the serious Democrat candidate left standing is Jerry Brown, former Governor and current Attorney General. While the options may still be open, Brown’s recent record with regard to the prison crisis merits some attention.

Brown is familiar with the correctional crisis, which has existed throughout his career as a public official in the state. The number of prisoners per capita increased throughout his previous gubernatorial positions, and his current position as Attorney General has required paying close attention to CDCR, particularly in the context of the Plata/Coleman ruling. Immediately after the original order in August 4, Brown declared his intent to appeal it, and he was closely involved in devising the state’s plan for submission to the panel, a job which exposed him to petitions from rights organizations to comply with the order.

Brown’s vast experience in the political system has solidified his array of friends and foes. In his position as Attorney General, Brown has worked to terminate Kelso’s receivership of the prison health system, calling his plans “wildly excessive” :

“The court should terminate this unaccountable prison receivership and its $8 billion construction plan, restoring a dose of fiscal reality to the provision of inmate medical care in California,” Brown said in a prepared release. “The federal receivership has turned into its own autonomous government operating outside the normal checks and balances of state and federal law.”

On the other hand, the CCPOA’s relationship with Governor Schwarzenegger, which was rife with animosity, is likely to be considerably better with Jerry Brown as governor. Like the CCPOA, he strongly opposed Proposition 5, which advocated treatment options for nonviolent drug offenders.

Californians are already familiar with Brown, and will take into account his position on a variety of matters. As one example of many, Brown considered Proposition 8 constitutionally indefensible and urged the court to void it. Nevertheless, we should be attentive to the way the prison crisis will be presented by the different gubernatorial candidates. This situation should exit the invisible realm and be confronted with practical, creative plans by whoever will be at the state’s helm.