Fewer inmates and fewer arrests -- that's what California's prison system is saying about the low-level offenders since the realignment began. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or CDCR said it's good news, but local jurisdictions have said otherwise. We took a look at the department's recently released study analyzing the first year of public safety realignment.
The CDCR wants to emphasize the fact that there's a specific type of offender being diverted from state prisons to our local jails. Those offenders include people who've committed non-serious, non-violent crimes and who aren't registered sex offenders. We decided to find out what this new information on realignment means for the average person.
Mark Oliviera, Mark Ashford, Jerry Luna, James Lucio, and Angel Espinoza, just a few of the felons picked up by local law enforcement.
"There's a level of sophistication of persons coming from the state prison system and coming out into the county system. So in essence they're bringing whatever business they were conducting in prison right back into the streets,” said Gilroy Police Department Cpl. Brian Dutton.
So are felons re-offending? In October, Gilroy police said low-level prison inmates aren't exactly turning over a new leaf. But in December, the CDCR said fewer felons are committing crimes. The CDCR tracked more than 58,000 offenders for a year. The department found the re-arrest rate dropped by about 2 percent and new crime convictions stayed about the same. But the biggest change? A 25 percent drop in the number of felons being sent back to prison.
But how safe are our neighborhoods with more felons being monitored locally? In September, one department said some are ending up on the streets.
"Even though they may not have stable housing, they do report on a weekly basis to their probation officer here,” said Chief Deputy Robert Reyes of San Luis Obispo County Probation.
Re-alignment is designed to reduce costs within the prison system. But are county jails getting the money they need as promised under Proposition 30? In October, the Monterey County Jail secured $80 million to expand, but it can't happen fast enough.
"We're currently sending 50 inmates to Alameda County simply because we don't have the space here to house them," said John Guertin of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.
The CDCR wants to make it clear, realignment doesn't mean felons are released from prison early and anyone who commits a violent or serious crime will never be sent to county jail.