Jury still out on state jail realignment
A year ago this week the state began implementing its jail realignment plan to move prisoners out of state facilities and either on to the parole rolls or into county jail facilities.
It appears the plan has mixed results and that it may be another year or two before we will know if the plan is saving the state money and what impact it is having on the safety of citizens.
Jail realignment officially began on Oct. 1, 2011. The goal of the realignment is to save the state money from not having to house prisoners in costly state prison facilities. Instead, thousands of prisoners are now kept in county facilities, including more than 500 who have been housed in Tulare County at one time or another.
County officials said realignment inmates now make up about 19 percent of the jail population. So far, Tulare County has been able to manage the increase and no early releases have been necessary. That has not been true in other counties, such as Fresno where scores of inmates are being released because of overcrowding.
Tulare County has also avoided the increase in crime that some other counties have experienced. Porterville Police Chief Chuck McMillan said he is not a fan of the realignment and that his officers are having more contact with parolees who are violating the terms of their probation or parole, but he is cautiously pleased he has not seen a huge spike in the local crime rate.
The savings from realignment is also in question. Republican Assembly member Connie Conway (R-Tulare) last month questioned the savings, saying it does not appear the state is realizing the savings as projected. Conway said the state prison budget has not decreased in the past year. In fact, she noted in an e-mail, it has increased by $200 million even though the plan is to reduce the state inmate population by 29,000 inmates by June of next year.
We hope Tulare County can continue to handle the influx of inmates and that county probation can continue to monitor the increase in those criminals placed on probation.
However, the bottom line is the state needs to see a savings before realignment can be called a success.