This week in Realignment: May 17, 2013

150 150 Christopher Nelson

In a sign that public safety realignment is creeping more and more into the consciousness of lawmakers, the media and the public, Gov. Jerry Brown touched on the issue in his short statement on his May budget revision earlier this week and several reporters brought it up in questions.

The changes to the funding formula for realignment were simple yet significant and necessary. 

SB 678 deals with allocating additional funds to county probation departments that aim to prevent new crimes and probation violations. Those counties that focus on improved treatment and supervision of offenders to reduce repeat offenses get more funds, simple as that. 

Almost none of the money given to counties for realignment had any performance requirements, so we applaud the Governor’s intent to reward counties that get results. The incentive is there, it’s up to counties to recognize how the evidence-based approach is shown to improve offender outcomes, reduce recidivism and increase public safety.  

That Gov. Brown was asked if this shift was an admission that realignment is failing is an indicator of how much those in the media still aren’t getting on this topic.  Even if an initiative isn’t failing it can always be improved. The Governor listened to the issues counties raised and has made adjustments that do  

As the CDCR releases some of the first statewide analysis of realignment, many are quick to jump to conclusions on essentially a six month timespan.

“This six month look at the data is instructive. The data show there is not a violent crime wave sweeping through California as some would have you believe. In fact, the data indicate that things might even be getting slightly better,” said Jim Mayer, Executive Director of California Forward whose organization is working with counties to help implement realignment to improve public safety results and reduce costs by adopting or expanded the use of evidence-based practices. 

“The key is to keep gathering and sharing data with counties in order for each county to arrive at a solution that works for its residents.” 

Meanwhile, Republican fear-mongering has subsided somewhat with a generally unilateral rejection of Abel Maldonado’s attempt to make the repeal of AB 109 a central issue in his bid to unseat Gov. Brown. Dan Morain of the Bee details the clumsiness of his ploy and other outlets echo the irrelevance of his drum-beating.

However, we are pleased to see an uptick in the number of positive realignment stories to counter the negative narrative that had become so prominent. San Joaquin County, along with Glenn, San Bernardino and San Mateo, is being recognized for its exemplary implementation of public safety realignment. These counties are treating it as an opportunity and making the most of their funding to ensure a long term reduction in recidivism through evidence-based best practices, as featured in videos developed by the California State Association of Counties.  

From in San Joaquin: 

What particularly stood out about the county, he said, is the Assessment Center, a sort of one-stop shop for post-release services. There, individuals released under AB109 have access to their probation officers, county mental health, public assistance, job searches and other programs to help with their transition.

“When you’re newly released from jail or incarceration, just getting around can be difficult,” Fishman said. “You probably don’t have a car.

“If you really want to stop somebody from being a criminal, you give them a chance to not be a criminal. San Joaquin is one of the counties approaching (realignment) in that aspect.”

Probation is identifying root causes of crime and mitigating those programs, he said, whether by providing drug treatment or relocating someone from a bad neighborhood.

We have been preaching for a while now that realignment is a slow process that won’t show immediate results, but now a year and a half in, the spectrum of people understanding the benefits of long-term thinking is expanding. It is our hope that this trend continues and that descriptions of San Joaquin County like the above become the norm across the state.


Christopher Nelson

All stories by: Christopher Nelson