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Town Hall Meeting Set to Discuss Inmates Coming to the County

About 100 "low-level" inmates have already been freed from state prisons and sent to San Mateo County since October 1.

 

The plan to move inmates from overcrowded state prisons into county correctional situations is still a work in progress.

This Tuesday night, a countywide town hall meeting in Redwood City will address what's been done so far in San Mateo County, and request public input on where we should be going.

"Yes, it will be two-way discussion," says San Mateo County Chief Probation Officer Stuart Forrest. "Now that we have more specifics of expectations and assumptions surrounding this population, we've begun working on the local plan."

AB 109, signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year, pushed so-called "low-level" inmates out of state prisons, and into the hands of counties throughout California.

The state's hands had been tied; the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2011 ruled that overcrowding in California's prisons created a potential for human rights violations.

Sacramento legislators responded by passing AB 109. The law forced counties to create what's called the Local Implementation Plan for Public Safety Realignment to deal with the influx.

San Mateo County has received about 100 prisoners so far, criminals granted early release from their state sentences in order to move to county supervision. Most were initially serving 18-month sentences; in fact, says Forrest, prisoners the county has received have served only four or five months prior to their release.

Forrest expects the county will receive 500-600 prisoners by October 2016. He wants the public to know just who is arriving.

"When you read the legislation (AB 109), it talks about non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent offenders," says Forrest. "It's really very misleading, because it refers to the offense that the person was last convicted for. Let's say the last offense that a person was sent to prison for was in that non-, non-, non- category, like a drug conviction. It may ignore the fact that the person has other aspects of their criminal history that are violent."

It's a misnomer to think these newly-arriving prisoners are heading into our county jails. In fact, most will be out in public, under the supervision of probation officers, not incarerated behind bars.

"Our information is that almost 90 percent of the people we're getting back have a documented substance abuse problem," says Forrest. "A lot of our efforts are for making sure people get appropriate treatment when they return, as well as making sure that they are not going to commit new crimes, and that the public is protected."

The state has created a funding mechanism for the plan. Forrest says money saved from closing certain state facilities, and diverted to the counties, will make up the bulk of the funding. Initially, additional dollars also came from vehicle license fees and state tax revenues. San Mateo County, in the first year, is expected to receive about $4.2 million for management of the program.

California is not alone in attempting to reduce its prison population through realignment. Oregon began a similar program about ten years ago.

"Their outcomes are very good," says Forrest. "We anticipate replicating, if not exceeding their results. They did it by having a very good balance of accountability and law enforcement on one side, and treatment on the other."

The chief probabation officer of the county does not mince words when he considers the challenge ahead, and how citizens ought to think about AB 109.

"I think they ought to consider it the most significant policy and legal change ever, ever in the state's history," says Forrest. "It completely re-works criminal justice, and it offers an opportunity to demonstrate how effective local supervision is."

The town hall meeting, hosted by Forrest and other members of a community corrections partnership, will be held Tuesday, January 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the County Government Center in Redwood City. Anyone with an interest in the topic is welcome to attend.

"Don't assume criminal justice has the entire job," says Forrest. "Citizens are involved as well."

More information is available on the county probation department website.

Alice Stoddard January 10, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Steve H is resourceful and should be able to find the stats on the % of illegal aliens currently housed (and paid for by you the taxpayer) in our prison system for crimes other than their immigration status. Over/Under on this is set at 30%. I'll take the over. Anyone want in on this bet? They just come here to work though...and get free medical and education. So funny.
Anjessello January 10, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Boy, it looks like those guys got a picture they weren't expecting ... Wait til they find out they could all soon join the donut shop with the other bunch. Whoo and just in time for the super bowl ... I think silvester stallones movie is kickin into our life gear where he orders a rat burger an says it's the best thing he's had in a long time
Dogbert January 10, 2012 at 05:22 AM
The cost of these expanded jail facilities and the personnel to run them is killing the already overburdened taxpayer. What say we close down and sell off all local correctional facilities/properties, directing the windfall to the various general funds throughout the county, and buy 24 Hour Fitness memberships for the inmates instead? Heck, not only would the prisoners have a roof over their respective heads and climate controlled quarters 24 by 7, but they also would have lockers, showers, toilets, wash basins, water fountains, a multitude of flat screen cable TVs, a high fidelity stereo system, great mats for sleeping and tons of protein bars and high energy drinks to dine upon. The prisoners could be chained to the various Nautilus stations and rotated on a timed basis in order to promote mental stimulation and comprehensive toning. The existing staff of personal trainers can double up as prison guards and guidance counselors. Fingerprint recognition is already in place so security should not be an issue. All this, for the bargain price of less than $25 per month per prisoner! Sometimes the awesomeness of my genius even surprises me.
Marc Parent January 12, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Nicely stated.
Michele January 15, 2012 at 07:11 AM
I will take the over as well Alice!!

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