Commentary

07/26/2013  by Ed Coghlan

This Week in Realignment: July 26, 2013


(photo credit: Alex Proimos)

Do you know where a big part of correction spending comes from? Health care. When the state or county imprisons someone they also take on the responsibility of their health care costs. The coming implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may help ease some of the state and county burden in this area.

Here's how they covered the story in Little Rock, Arkansas where, like here, health care for inmates is a huge cost.

It's a topic California Forward's Partnership for Community Excellence will be exploring with county health, probation, and law enforcement officials in Riverside and Santa Barbara next week. Collaboration among these departments can increase the number of those receiving services, especially those with substance abuse and/or mental illness issues. Targeted treatment is shown to work and can help stop the revolving door of recidivism for these offenders.

We will keep you apprised of how these conversations are going around the state.

Since AB 109 was put into action nearly two years ago, there has been a lot of heat but not much light cast on the public safety realignment issue in California. Our work has been committed to a data-based, reasonable discussion about how to best support a culture shift to results-based local governance.

Generally, the recent political narrative on realignment has gotten in the way of the facts, creating a lot of controversy about the type of offender that is being “let out” of state prisons.  That's why we were glad to see former Republican Assembly leader Pat Nolan's op-ed in the L.A. Times this past week. He called realignment a commonsense division of responsibility.

Nolan writes, "There is much for conservatives to like about realignment. It returns significant criminal justice discretion and dollars to local control. With careful management, realignment should keep crime rates low and reduce the nearly $10-billion California corrections burden by reserving expensive prison beds for career criminals and violent felons."

For those of you that have been following our reporting, you know how important data is in implementing realignment. This is an historic shift of responsibility from the state to the local counties. We are working with a number of counties to help with identifying best practices for implementation.

Meanwhile, this past week the Board of State and Community Corrections, which tracks the effects of California Criminal justice realignment, announced it is going to work with the Public Policy Institute of California on tracking felons in 10 counties. The challenge for all us who are striving to make realignment work well remains getting good, predictable, and standardized data which is not yet required.

And, by the way, while our focus is on adult public safety, there was an interesting story published this week in the Capitol Weekly that says youth crime in California is at a 40-year low. The article indicates there is probably a fair debate to have about how accurate that statistic is. But since many youth offenders often wind up in the adult system, let's hope the stat is accurate.

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