Cities to get $$ for prisoner takeover

By Union Democrat staff February 19, 2013 08:36 am

Cities throughout the state, including Sonora and Angels Camp, will receive money over the next three years to fund the tracking and supervision of AB 109 probationers and parolees. 

The city funding was approved by the Board of State and Community Corrections at a Jan. 17 meeting, after the California Police Chiefs Association lobbied the government to allocate funds to cities.

The funding will help offset increased costs associated with AB 109 — the state’s prisoner realignment. Ordered by the federal courts to lower the state’s prison population, the state reworked sentencing guidelines for many nonviolent offenses to place more convicts in the custody of cities and counties.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 109 into law in 2011.

Until now, AB 109 money has been targeted at the county level but not at the city level. 

The state is making disbursements from a $24 million fund to designated cities throughout California for the first fiscal year.

The board does not have exact numbers for the following two years, but the projected amount for the second year is $27.5 million.

Sonora will receive $27,602 for the first fiscal year, and Angels Camp will receive $22,286, according to the board. 

The board and California Police Chiefs Association developed several models for how agencies can spend their allotments. The agencies must submit a model for approval within 30 days of receiving money.

Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson presented a possible model to the city’s Finance and Personnel committees on Thursday. 

The model directs 25 percent of the funds to overtime related to AB 109, 10 percent to equipment and the remaining to hire a community service officer.

The unarmed officer would perform crime and data analysis for $17.84 per hour and would be tasked with tracking convicted felons, compiling statistics and developing crime maps. The officer would also act as a liaison, working with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department.

The funding cannot be used toward benefits for the officer.

Stinson said the Sonora Police Department, and other small agencies, mostly need funding to pay officers overtime related to AB 109. 

Because all of the models cap overtime spending at 25 percent of the funds, Stinson and other police chiefs at small departments have asked the state to increase the limit to 50 percent.

“I think it’s valuable for us to drag our feet as long as we can to get this overtime thing resolved,” he said.

Stinson said he has seen an increase in calls regarding probationers and parolees.

Tuolumne County District Attorney Mike Knowles said there has been a spike in property crimes in particular.

“I think it’s an unfair burden from the state,” he said of the bill. “Rural counties are suffering under the weight of the hand that we’ve been dealt.”

Calaveras County District Attorney Barbara Yook said the jails are not equipped to house the criminals, and probation departments are not equipped to supervise them. 

“People are out on the street a lot sooner and they’re not discouraged from committing new crimes,” she said.

Yook said the criminals who were being sent to prison before AB 109 was passed were the ones “who were given all the chances” and questioned why they should continue to receive the county’s resources. 

Both attorneys said that the state has been comparing “apples to oranges” by redefining recidivism to make AB 109 seem more successful.

“In my book, it’s a failure,” Yook said. “It fails the person and it fails the public.”