This Week in Realignment: August 23, 2013

150 150 Christopher Nelson

This past week has not been without controversy at both the state and the county level of corrections.

The Los Angeles Times ran two stories last week – one claiming that realignment has been implemented at a huge cost to the LA Police Department and the other (two days later) pointing out that monitoring of offenders is not as well-coordinated as it could be.

 The piece on LAPD begins:

The state’s controversial push to relieve severe prison overcrowding has resulted in the Los Angeles Police Department taking dozens of officers away from regular patrol duties in order to monitor ex-convicts, according to a department report.               

Since state officials implemented the prison measures in late 2011, the LAPD has had between 160 to170 officers assigned full time to units responsible for keeping tabs on thousands of felons who are living in Los Angeles after their release from prison. Before the new rules went into effect, the felons would have been supervised by state parole officers.

The piece on probation ends with:

It just creates a very difficult situation for us,” he [Capt. Phil Tingirides of the LAPD] said. “…Trust me, we would prefer that [parole or probation officers] do it. It’s really not our thing. This is a community relations nightmare for us.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was present at one of the compliance checks last year at A New Way of Life, said the continuing complaints fed his concerns that monitoring offenders is not as well-coordinated as it could be.

“Probation made a big push to be on the front line in terms of AB 109, so if compliance checks are such a huge issue …who’s supposed to be responsible for making sure it’s being done correctly?” he said at Tuesday’s meeting. In a separate interview, he said, “Frankly, all of them are supposed to be working collaboratively to make sure AB 109 works. If productive programs are being disrupted, then AB 109 is not working as it should.”

It appears as if there has not been good coordination or collaboration between LAPD and county Probation.  As with everything “realignment,” when this doesn’t happen, positive outcomes are hard to achieve.

More questions need to be asked (and answered) to get the full picture here: Did probation and LAPD agree that it would be LAPD’s job to do compliance checks?  What has the data told them about the success of this strategy?  Does LAPD and county Probation meet regularly to review this data and talk through the issues?  LAPD says they would prefer probation do the checks.  Why is probation not accompanying LAPD to do checks? Who is probation actively supervising and how many?  Are there high-risk offenders not on active supervision?  Is probation using risk and needs assessment in determining who should be actively supervised and what programs they should be getting?  Is LAPD truly doing SWAT like checks? Are SWAT like checks necessary? 

We are hearing that many landlords are choosing not to take probationers anymore because they empty out the entire building to do a compliance check on an offender.  The other renters and the neighbors obviously don’t like.  This means housing for offenders will become more scarce. 

So this lack of coordination has created new problems.  How bad does it have to get before LAPD and Probation start to work together?

Furthermore, Los Angeles County is running the lowest rate of split sentences of any county in California, at a rate of 5 percent. Because split sentencing is designed to provide a “tail” of post-release supervision on an offender, to be handled by probation, that means that 95 percent of those sentenced are completely free upon release. At that point, it does become the police’s job to surveil and arrest because probation has no jurisdiction.

As is always the case, it’s never as black and white as one might think after reading one or two newspaper articles.  


Christopher Nelson

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