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.

Angelique January 09, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Well there goes the explanation for the recent increase in crime throughout San Mateo County! They should of let us send these people to the brand new Arizona prisons a few years ago when it was on the table!! Shame on u!
Steve Hayes January 09, 2012 at 06:48 PM
There is a simple solution when you consider the fact that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world - why is it that we have 5% of the World's population and 25% of the World's prisoners? We can not afford this and the money should be shifted toward education - sentences are too long, too many non violent prisoners and too many Prison Industry interests. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarceration_rate
Robert January 09, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Steve, I recommend to you to sign up and spend 3 shifts with the corrections dept. in our county. I think you may have a different perspective. It is similar to critique of a football player if you have never played. Try it out - if you need help getting assigned let me know. Then write your thoughts. I am open minded - I hope you are too.
Lin January 09, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I do believe there is a direct correlation with the recent crime in San Carlos/San Mateo County and the release of low life from the State prison. But to Steve's point, we do lack social safety nets and programs to impact gang violence and substance abuse in our communities. With no funds for youth centers (San Carlos is lucky), school art, music and sports programs being eliminated, jobs shipped overseas, higher education out of reach for many.......what can we expect? I believe we will reach a terrible tipping point if something is not done soon. A revolution may be coming soon.
Gabriela Segovia-McGahan January 09, 2012 at 07:52 PM
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ~ Frederick Douglass
Steve Hayes January 09, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I am trying to be objective, but how can you justify the incarceration rates we have if you open your eyes and look at the rest of the world - (prisoners per 100k total population) U.S. = 743 UK = 156, Spain = 154, Canada = 117, Italy =110, Austrailia = 133 and the list goes on and on - we (the US) are way out of line. Our problem is that we have too many prisoners and I feel just as safe in all of the above countries as I do here. It costs us about $40k per year per prisoner - we can not afford this so we need to look at alternatives. We need to be more like the rest of the world. BTW I did visit Vacaville State Prison 3-4 times while I was a student and I will admit prisons are ugly places. I also did play football.
Pretty Asian... January 09, 2012 at 08:42 PM
i have to concur with Gabriela's post.
Kerry - ND January 09, 2012 at 09:59 PM
It'll probably get worse before it gets better, no doubt. If you throw people into those conditions that *were* just low-level offenders, no doubt they'll walk out of their "rehabilitation" stint looking for more trouble. I don't doubt that Robert's feelings are validated, too. I think the whole corrections system went Lord of the Flies long ago. How do you even begin to correct such debased corrections? The countries Steve Hayes refers to are very different than the US. Whether it's the chicken or the egg that came first, it's a whole different animal at this point.
Judi January 09, 2012 at 11:23 PM
I thought the San Carlos Teen Center was closed for lack of operating funds.?
Bucksnort January 10, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Arm yourselves, people. Wanna bet the guys in this video had some "low level" convictions and were "rehabilitated"? Hmmmmm....http://video.foxnews.com/v/1367887491001/teenage-mom-shoots-kills-home-intruder
Chris Corbett January 10, 2012 at 03:26 AM
This is ten-fold worse than the school districts' superintendent inadequacy! You guys think I'm bad because I am an outspoken advocate for the disabled and point out flaws in people with their charge. You haven't seen "nothin'" yet. Wait until these antisocial misfits are in front of Starbucks on Grand. To put a positive spin on it, at least I'll have something else to discuss rather than Hogan. Don't say I'm not an optimist...
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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