Today, Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors will face round four-hundred and thirty-seven (approximately) of the question of who should take charge of the 13,000 or so non-non-non parolees—-the non violent/non serious/non sex-offending among those being paroled from prison yearly—all of whom, up until now, have been under the supervision of the state.
The idea behind this switch in jurisdiction, just to remind you, is that California’s various counties can do the supervision cheaper than our budget strapped state can. Plus the county agencies have a good chance of doing it better.
“Better” would mean that the parolees are helped and supervised in such a way that they stay out of incarceration altogether, rather than returning over and over again to do “life on the installment plan,” thus clogging our prisons and gobbling up horrendously large portions of the state budget.
This so called “Public Safety Realignment” is considered to be the cornerstone of the governor’s plan to reduce the state’s prison population as ordered by the US Supreme Court this past spring.
Okay, so originally both LA County Probation and the sheriff’s department were pitching to be given the new parolee contract, but after it turned out that it would cost tens of millions of dollars under the LASD, in addition to the fact that Probation Chief Don Blevins gave a strong and detailed presentation of why Probation should get the gig—-the sheriff suddenly bowed out of the race saying he wanted to share responsibility—and the state $$$ that would accompany the parolees—with Probation.
As a supposed compromise plan, the County CEO, Bill Fujioka put out a hybrid strategy of shared power between Probation and LASD. However the strategy was so sloppily thought out it was rumored to have been withdrawn by the time I write this.
Tomorrow, Don Blevins will try to persuade the Board of Sups to name Probation the lead agency and let him draft a plan.
Under normal circumstances such a proposal would sail through with a strong YES vote but, because of the bad blood that has risen between Blevins and some of the Supervisors, in addition to Blevins and the various probation workers’ unions, it is tough to say how things will play out.
Matters are complicated by the no confidence vote that was handed to Chief Blevins last week by the three main unions governing probation workers.
As Chief Blevins said when I spoke to him Monday morning, such a vote from the unions is usually “a death sentence” for someone in his position.
The Probation Chief, who is a very likeable guy who seems to have good ideas, programatically, disputed many of the conclusions and rumors put out by the union heads, like the intimation that Blevins was away from town too much.
“I’ve taken no vacations since last September,” he said, “And I work all day most Saturdays.”
(NOTE: The record shows this is true, although he seems to attend a lot of out of town meetings and conferences. However maybe that simply comes with the territory.)
Blevins also commented on the puzzling timing of the No Confidence thingy—since, presumably the unions want Probation to get this contract. If they do, why would they choose this precise moment to deliver what could be a mortal wound to the head of the agency? Blevins wanted to know.
Let us hope that the Supervisors are wise enough to put aside whatever problems and political concerns they might have with Don Blevins long enough to realize that the right policy decision is to give the AB 109 parole contract to Probation. Period.
NOTE: TUESDAY MORNING I’M GOING TO BE ON A PANEL TALKING ABOUT PRISONER RE ENTRY to a group of health journalists from all over the country. I’ll let you know how it goes.