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August 30, 2009

Trickle-down realities of the prison economy in California

This local article from California, which is headlined "State prison cuts' effect on county jail feared," spotlights the trickle-down impact of most prison cuts at the state level.  Here are excerpts:

After four years of declines in the number of inmates held at the Sonoma County Jail, local authorities fear that an overhaul of the statewide prison system could increase the jail population by hundreds of inmates at an estimated cost of $1 million a year.

Lawmakers have until Sept. 11, the end of the legislative session, to save close to a billion dollars by decreasing the state's prison population, which is roughly double its intended capacity.

That has local criminal justice authorities and county leaders concerned that the Sonoma County Jail could fill with parolees who have violated parole and inmates who under today's regulations would be sent to state prison. “Increased victimization and a potential increase in the jail population is the big concern that law enforcement officials have,” Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said. “In this day of limited resources, how do we deal with that?”...

Passalacqua, County Supervisor Mike Kerns and Assistant Sheriff Linda Suvoy, who runs the county corrections system, said [all] changes [impact] local law enforcement. “If you add inmates locally it's going to be a problem,” said Suvoy, citing staffing issues and costs of reopening units that have been closed. “The big question is how to pay for it and is the state really going to divert funding to the local governments to address those issues,” she said....

County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said there have not been any formal discussions about the local impacts of prison overhaul measures among county supervisors, but the worry is palpable, as the costs to a community are not just at the jail. “These impacts are going to be significant,” she said. “If we have 400 state prisoners coming back into the county, my hunch is well over 50 percent of them are going to need substance-abuse counseling and job assistance, and those services are being cut. Releasing prisoners and cutting services that are going to help them stay out of prison and gainfully employed is absurd.”

Kerns, though supportive of overhauling the state prison system, said he wished the state would find a way to do it in a way that didn't cost the county. “We will be lobbying against this (Senate bill),” he said. “It's going to cost us money we don't have. Basically it will mean we will have to expand existing facilities. It's going to cost us a lot more money and it's going to be much more difficult for us to provide resources.”

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August 30, 2009 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

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