PROBATION CHIEF CALLS FOR MORE “SPLIT SENTENCES”
In a realignment progress report to the LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Chief of Probation Jerry Powers recommended that judges hand out more “split sentences,” so that state inmates serving time in county jails under realignment also have to submit to probation supervision once released.
The LA Times’ Abby Sewell has the story. Here’s a clip:
Without that, Chief of Probation Jerry Powers told county supervisors Tuesday, officials have no ability to make sure the inmates get into substance abuse treatment and other programs once released from behind bars.
Powers’ comments came as he joined with public health officials in a progress report on the realignment program. Law enforcement officials said they continue to struggle with offenders who abscond after being released to county probation supervision.
Under the program – devised to reduce state prison overcrowding per court order — certain nonviolent offenders who previously would have served in state penitentiaries are now sentenced to county jail, and those serving state prison sentences are released to county probation supervision instead of state parole.
About 4% of felons sentenced to Los Angeles County jails are given split sentences, under which the time they would otherwise spend in jail is split between jail and probation. But most felons who serve their full term in jail are not required to submit to probation supervision.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this is a concept unknown to most Californians, we thought a little bit more explanation might be helpful. Basically, “split sentencing” is one of two possible sanctions to be given those low-level offenders who, under AB109, now will do their time in county jail rather than going to state prison. It works like this: those convicted can either do their full sentence in lock-up with no “tail” of probation supervision afterward. Or their sentence may be “split” into half jail time, half on probation where they are monitored and, ideally, helped and given treatment as they make their way back into community life.
Statewide, 24 percent of the AB109-ers get split sentencing. San Francisco County gives nearly half of its realignment inmates split sentencing. Contra Costa and San Mateo split more than 80 percent of their sentences. San Diego splits 24 percent. Alameda is far lower.
Los Angeles is the lowest of all, Chief Powers reported. We split only a crazily miniscule four percent of our AB109 cases.
It was heartening to note that, at the meeting, Powers strongly recommended that LA utilize split sentences a lot more, pointing out that research has repeatedly shown that giving offenders supervision, help and treatment on release “significantly reduces recidivism.” Split-sentencing “enhances public safety,” Powers said as he reiterated Probation’s strong support, “and the benefits outweigh the costs.”
Assistant Chief Cecil Rhambo, who was also at the meeting, spoke for the LASD and said that the sheriff’s department also recommended more use of split sentencing as, in addition to its potential benefits in helping inmates succeed when they get out, it freed up jail space.
So why isn’t it being used in LA, when it is being embraced to a greater or lessor degree by almost all of California’s other counties?
The answer seemed to be mainly with the DA’s office, whose representative, Assistant District Attorney Bill Hodgeman, cheerfully admitted that “generally the DA’s don’t seek it…”
They didn’t seek it, he said, because it was a tool with which they were “unfamiliar.” Hodgeman then told the Supes that the DA’s office needed another six months to ponder the matter (or words to that effect).
WLA has an alternate idea: rather than contemplating the notion for another half year, perhaps the DA’s office should get down to business and “familiarize” themselves with the ins and outs of split sentencing ASAP. While it has a few bothersome quirks (that are too cumbersome to discuss here) split sentencing is not exactly a mysterious concept requiring knowledge of, say, advanced theoretical mathematics.
If the rest of California’s DA’s offices can manage to get a grip on split sentencing, surely our esteemed prosecutors can too.
And good for Chief Powers for pushing the matter, however gently.
SUPES’ VOTE ON BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON PAUSE
The Supervisors were also expected to vote Tuesday on a motion introduced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to establish a Blue Ribbon Comission on Child Protection to provide an independent review of the foster care system. The motion’s co-sponsor, Supe Mike Antonovich, was absent from the meeting, so it has been continued to next week. We’ll keep you updated.
CA BILL TO CHANGE GANG DATABASE PROTOCOL ADVANCING THROUGH LEGISLATURE
Happy photo of the Youth Justice Coalition team that trekked to the capitol for the SB-458 hearing (plus an excellent bronze bear statue)!
A CA bill, SB-458, that would require law enforcement to notify minors and their parents if they have been added to a shared gang database, and would also allow families to appeal the identification, passed through the California State Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.
Youth Justice Coalition has more on this important bill.
CALIFORNIA REDUCING YOUTH INCARCERATION
California is a juvenile justice “comeback state,” according to a report released Tuesday by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice (TPPF). The report commends nine states in all that have produced juvenile justice system turn-arounds and points out the effective incarceration-reducing policies and alternatives. Here are some of the CA highlights:
The peak. The number of youth confined in public facilities increased from 12,519 in 1985 to 17,551 in 2000, a 40 percent jump.
The reversal. The number of youth confined in public facilities decreased from 16,548 in 2001 to 9,781 in 2010, a 40 percent decline. For all facilities (i.e., public and private), the number of youth decreased from 18,144 in 2001 to 11,531 in 2010, a 36 percent decline.
Since the year 2007, California has adopted four of six types of incarceration-reducing policies highlighted in this report: 1) evidence-based alternatives to incarceration; 2) facility closings; 3) elimination or reduction of incarceration for minor offenses; and 4) additional statewide realignment that shifts responsibility for youth who commit offenses to counties.
Since 1996, subsequent California state legislatures have mandated three major realignments between state and county responsibilities and funding arrangements. The 1996 realignment imposed a sliding-scale fee schedule that required counties to pay a substantial share of the costs to confine youth who commit low-level offenses in state facilities.
As a result, the number of youth in state prisons fell from about 10,000 in 1996 to about 2,500 in 2007, the year that the next state realignment occurred, while the number in county facilities remained about the same. In 2007 and 2012, legislators mandated two more realignments for the purpose of both further reducing youth populations in state facilities and facilitating the use of community-based alternatives to confinement at the local level.