L.A. County must decide which agency will handle influx of inmates

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

How do you address the state’s budget crisis and jammed packed state prisons?  With Assembly Bill 109.

The Public Safety Realignment Bill creates a community corrections approach to the rehabilitation of low risk offenders – those convicted of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual crimes. Those offenders will be transferred from state prisons to the responsibility of California’s counties. 

In 57 of the 58 counties, probation agencies will oversee parolees.  But in Los Angeles County, the sheriff wants to take control.

Now, two agencies are battling for the job – the Sheriff’s department and the County Probation Department – both submitting different plans to county supervisors, who must decide which agency will take the lead.

Earlier this week, the plans were presented to the board. 

“Why change what isn’t broken?” said Chief Probation Officer Don Blevins.  “My department has over 100 years of experience, and a staff that is 100% trained with resident experts, to help parolees get back into a life without crime.” 

“The parole program is broken,” Sheriff Lee Baca argued. “The county has a 40% recidivism rate.”  He said his department knows how to help people who have been incarcerated, and it’s through education. 

Some would argue that sheriff deputies should enforce the law, not to help rehabilitate those who are trying to stay out of jail.

But Sheriff Baca said his pitch is “solely motivated by public safety.”

Members of the board fired back with plenty of questions, including:  “Whose program is going to be more cost effective?”

“Sheriff Baca, you said it would take six months to a year for your program to become operational; We don’t have that much time.”

It’s a topic that has a lot of people on both sides passionately fighting.  Our coverage includes people rallying outside the Board of Supervisors building before the hearing.  We spoke with a representative from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department as well as an L.A. County Probation Employee. 

On October 1st, the county will begin to receive about 5,000 low risk inmates from the state, and it has little time to prepare.

Some community activists hope both the sheriff’s and probation departments can work together to prove allocating this responsibility and control to the communities is the best idea.

County Supervisors will now hear recommendations from a sub-committee, and then choose an agency by August 1.


Cheryl Getuiza

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