Capitol Beat – Hitting the Ground Running

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

Governor Jerry Brown, who has always taken a more conservative approach to spending, is using much of this year’s surplus to stash away billions of dollars in reserves, both because of the recession that he believes is looming and due to the prospect of the Republican Congress cutting social services in the wake of its vote for a tax cut last month that could swell the federal deficit by $1.4 trillion over a decade.

The budget plan gives a $5 billion jolt to the state’s rainy day fund, which means that fund would hold 10% of California’s General Fund revenue, estimated to give the state $13.5 billion to use in a fiscal emergency by June 30, 2019.

Relating to public safety, included in the past few budgets has been funding for various “transition, education and workforce” programs for inmates leaving state prison due to the AB 109 realignment and Propositions 47 and 57. With this being Governor Brown’s last budget, his administration is very focused this year on prisoner rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. The budget addresses the following local public safety issues.

The Community Corrections Performance Incentive Grant

The Community Corrections Performance Incentive Grant, Chapter 608, Statutes of 2009 (SB 678), was created to provide incentives for counties to reduce the number of felony probationers sent to state prison. The budget includes $106.4 million to continue this successful program.

Post-Release Community Supervision (PRCS)

The budget includes $29 million in the General Fund for county probation departments to supervise the temporary increase in the average daily population of offenders on PRCS as a result of the implementation of Proposition 57.

Proposition 47 Savings

Voters passed Proposition 47 in November 2014, which requires misdemeanor rather than felony sentencing for certain property and drug crimes, and permits inmates previously sentenced for these reclassified crimes to petition for resentencing. The Department of Finance currently estimates net savings of $64.4 million for Proposition 47 when comparing 2017–18 to 2013–14, an increase of $18.8 million over the estimated savings in 2016–17. Ongoing savings are currently estimated to be approximately $69 million. These funds will be allocated according to the formula outlined in the initiative.

Transition From State Custody to Local Systems

As a result of various criminal justice reforms over the years, it has become increasingly important to improve the transition of inmates from state custody to local supervision. The administration has found that the existing handoff between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and probation departments is in need of improvement, and plans to strengthen local partnerships to enhance the process for release. By improving information transfer and sharing of resources to assist with a more seamless transition of offenders to the local system, the state can increase success of transition and reduce the likelihood of offenders returning to custody. To this end, CDCR has undertaken several initiatives in cooperation with counties, such as:

  • Pre-release video conferencing allows a probation officer to schedule a video teleconference appointment with an offender prior to release to PRCS. This will increase communication between offenders and their probation officers, allowing for more effective pre-release planning and dialogue related to housing and treatment program placement.
  • In December 2017, CDCR led web-based training for approximately 600 county probation staff to promote a better understanding of its release process and protocols for determining PRCS eligibility.
  • CDCR, in collaboration with the Receiver’s Office and the Chief Probation Officers of California, has developed a protocol for the release of offenders who are medically compromised and in need of specialized community care upon release. The protocols include communication requirements and expedited timeframes between internal and external stakeholders who are impacted by the release of medically compromised inmates. CDCR is also working on a protocol for the release of inmates with serious mental illness.
  • In October 2017, CDCR finished automation of the pre-release information to expedite the process and provide associated data to appropriate staff in real-time. The pre-release information includes offender data such as in-prison behavior and programming, residence and employment plans, reporting requirements, caseworker evaluations, and medical and psychiatric needs.

Since these efforts are in the early stages of implementation, the administration will continue working with the Chief Probation Officers of California to discuss and evaluate their impacts on the handoff process.

Success for offenders comes from continuing partnerships with stakeholders at the local level on diversion, mental health, job readiness and workforce development, substance use disorder treatment, and health care programs that focus more on rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Initiatives undertaken by the administration, such as implementation of the Affordable Care Act and workforce investments, give the state an opportunity to provide offenders with services necessary to end the cycle of crime and become self-sufficient and productive members of society.

Department of Justice

The administration will continue working with the Attorney General’s Office on a funding proposal expected in the spring to implement Chapter 541, Statutes of 2017 (SB 384), which will replace the existing lifetime sex offender registration system with a tiered registration system beginning January 1, 2021. Among other things, the Department of Justice will need to prepare information technology planning documents, update the California Sexual Assault Registry and add staff to support new tiering, exclusion and termination requests associated with SB 384, which are expected to cost millions of dollars annually.

Capitol Beat – The Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

Two of the 10 most dangerous cities in the nation are in California — yet we continue to see criminal justice reforms being passed that lessen sentences, allow for early release and put public safety at risk.

Props 47, 57 and AB 109, combined, have released tens of thousands of inmates, straining local jails and fueling a new surge in local crime and homelessness. They have also limited DNA collection and redefined criminal theft, costing millions to business owners and consumers. PORAC opposed all three reforms. We can agree that because of these acts, there are more serious flaws in our current criminal justice system than ever before.

Under current law, rape of an unconscious person, trafficking a child for sex, assault of a peace officer, felony domestic violence and other similar crimes are no longer classified as violent felonies, making criminals convicted of these crimes eligible for early release. The release of these criminals without meeting the mental health, drug rehabilitation and reformative needs of the individuals often leads to homelessness and the continuous cycle of criminal behavior.

On October 30, a statewide ballot measure was filed with the Secretary of State in an attempt to fix the problems brought forth by recent criminal justice reforms. The initiative is sponsored by the California Public Safety Partnership (CAPSP), an alliance of law enforcement, public safety leaders, crime victims, child advocates and business leaders.

Specifically, the initiative takes action against crime on four fronts:

1)   Expands the violent crimes list for early release parole consideration. Added crimes include:

  • Human trafficking of a child
  • Abducting a minor for prostitution
  • Rape by intoxication
  • Rape of an unconscious person
  • Felony sexual penetration, sodomy or oral copulation when drugs are used or the victim is unconscious
  • Drive-by shooting or shooting on foot at an inhabited dwelling or vehicle
  • Felony domestic violence
  • Felony assault with a deadly weapon
  • Solicitation to commit murder
  • Felony assault using force likely to produce great bodily injury
  • Assault with a caustic chemical
  • False imprisonment/taking a hostage when avoiding arrest or for use as a shield
  • Felony resisting a peace officer, causing death or serious injury
  • Exploding a bomb to injure people
  • Felony hate crime
  • Any felony where it is pled and proven that the defendant personally used a deadly weapon
  • Any crime with lifetime PC 290
  • Felony use of force or threats against a witness or victim of a crime
  • Felony elder or dependent adult abuse

This act also changes the standard of parole review from “Does inmate pose a danger to commit violence?” to “Does the inmate pose an unreasonable risk of creating victims as a result of felonious conduct if released from prison?”

2)   Reinstates DNA collection for certain crimes that were reduced to misdemeanors under Prop 47. Multiple studies have shown that DNA collected from theft and drug offenders helps solve cases of rape, murder and other violent crimes. But since the passage of Prop 47, cold-case hits have fallen dramatically.

3)   Makes serial theft a felony for offenders convicted of a third theft of property valued at $250 or more. Prop 47 reduced to a misdemeanor theft under $950, and failed to account for thieves who steal repeatedly, which has spawned an epidemic of shoplifting costing California’s retailers, small and large, an estimated $1 billion.

4)   Requires a mandatory hearing to determine whether parole should be revoked for any parolee who violates the terms of their parole for the third time. Currently, parolees can violate parole repeatedly with little consequence. AB 109 bases parole solely on an offender’s commitment offense, resulting in the release of inmates with serious and violent criminal histories. Moreover, parolees who repeatedly violate the terms of their parole currently face few consequences, allowing them to remain on the street. In February 2017, just 10 days after being paroled, Michael Mejia shot and killed veteran Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer in a gun battle. Mejia had a long criminal history and had been arrested five times in the seven months leading up to Officer Boyer’s death. This tragedy could have been avoided.

PORAC assisted in initial research in the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 and has been meeting with stakeholders, but at the time this article was written has not taken an official position on the 2018 initiative.