AB 1449 makes several changes to realignment statute
(SACRAMENTO) – Today, State Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez introduced a new piece of legislation, AB 1449, a public safety bill aimed at helping local jurisdictions handle several implementation challenges related to state-mandated public safety realignment.
“Public safety realignment was a difficult but necessary choice we made in 2011 to help the state respond to the overcrowding and health crisis in our state prisons,” explained Pérez. “Now, two years into it, we need to make some mid-course corrections to assist our local jurisdictions and ensure public safety. The proposals in this bill were brought to us by local law enforcement through roundtable discussions and meetings, and they are supported by a recent Stanford report that surveyed jurisdictions throughout the state.”
In 2011, Governor Brown signed AB 109, The Public Safety Realignment Act, which shifted to counties the responsibility for monitoring, tracking, and incarcerating lower-level offenders previously sent to state prison. By mid-2013, more than 100,000 offenders had been diverted from state prison to county supervision. Local jurisdictions have struggled to handle this influx of offenders, encountering a number of implementation challenges. Specifically, AB 1449 makes three changes to the realignment statute:
1) Criminal History: AB 1449 would allow an offender’s full adult criminal history to be considered when determining whether the county or state will supervise a parolee. Under current law, only the immediate conviction offense is considered. As a result, offenders with minor current crimes, but a history of serious and violent prior convictions (including moderate-risk sex offenders), are reporting to county probation officers.
2) Length of Sentence: AB 1449 would remand any person sentenced to three or more years to state custody and would clarify that only inmates serving fewer than three years will be eligible for county custody. Currently, responsibility for housing lower-level offenders regardless of sentence is delegated to the counties. County jails, constructed prior to realignment, were designed to handle inmates serving up to one year in prison and do not have the capacity to house and care for longer-term inmates.
3) Technical Parole Violations: AB 1449 would impose a one-year prison sentence on anyone convicted of three or more serious technical probation violations. Currently, technical violations of a parolee’s terms of supervision result in county jail time and only for a maximum of six months. In counties where the jails are crowded, technical violators are among the first released to create room for more serious offenders. This cycle of supervision, violation, brief punishment, and release gives an offender little incentive to comply with supervision rules important for rehabilitation and public safety.
In developing the policy proposal, Pérez relied on input from local law enforcement stakeholders in Riverside and Imperial counties. Their challenges were also documented in the 2013 report, “Voices from the Field: How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment,” a statewide survey of police, sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation and parole agents, victim advocates, offenders and social service representatives.