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Starting October 1st, a major shift has changed the way California’s correctional system handles inmates. Many felons will be housed at county jails instead of state prisons. Parolees who would have been under the supervision of state parole officers will become the responsibility of county probation officers.

These changes have been prompted by the recent Supreme Court decision that California prisons must reduce the inmate population by more than 33,000. The current inmate population in the state’s correctional system is 144,000.

Among changes being made is the hiring of additional personnel for the county sheriffs’ probation offices, new construction projects and the reopening of county detention facilities.

The number of parolees on the streets is also expected to increase with the new realignment. This is cause for concern for many local police departments. There is no way to predict what the impact will be on crime rates or how successful rehabilitative efforts will be at the county level. The recidivism rate for state prisoners, according to the California Department of Corrections, is nearly 70%.

In order to avoid facing a similar problem in overcrowding county jails, the realignment plan is putting more focus on alternatives to incarceration as well. These include GPS monitoring, rehabilitation programs and home confinement. However, there has been little done in the way of financial planning when it comes to these alternatives.

With the upcoming changes, nearly 1,460 offenders that would’ve gone to a state prison will instead be housed in a county jail for the first year. Additionally, those who are set to be released Saturday, and are not convicted of violent or serious sexual offenses, will be supervised by county probation officials.

Another change will be that convicts who violate the terms of their release will be taken to county jail for a “flash incarceration” lasting ten days instead of going before the parole board. A county judge may also decide to lengthen the time these violators spend behind bars. Probation officials will also have a say in whether the offender should be sent to a social program rather than jail.

The goal is to bring down recidivism rates through successful treatment of offenders in rehabilitation programs.

Additional cases will be brought before county judges for review. The success of the rehabilitative programs will determine how many cases the judges will actually review each year. The costs associated can also play a major factor.

The extra workload put on county prosecutors as well as jail employees required to supervise the inmates who are awaiting trial will increase the cost that each county will have to endure as well.

While the state is scrambling to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling, it remains to be seen what the exact impact will be, both on the crime rates that have been on the decline for California over the past few years as well as the financial burden each county will be placed under.

Source: The Orange County Register, "State to begin sending inmates to O.C." by Salvador Hernandez and Sean Emery

Published: 10/04/2011