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State Realignment Floods County Jails and Probation Department

Aired 1/27/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego County law enforcement is seeing more offenders being passed down from the state under realignment than expected. That’s affecting both the jails and the Probation Department.

It’s like a river: when the volume of water increases, the overflow is felt downstream. More offenders than expected are entering county jails as a result of realignment, the state’s strategy to shift prisoners out of overcrowded state prisons.

San Diego Sherriff Bill Gore has released hundreds of non-violent offenders from jail early in order to accommodate a higher than expected number of state parole violators who now have to be housed in county jails.

Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins
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Above: Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins

San Diego’s Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins said those 300 low-level offenders released from county jail early are adding to his department’s caseload. He said he and the sheriff are working together to make sure this is manageable. However, his 150 adult probation officers already have a caseload of 50 to 1 for high-risk offenders. Since they have not yet assessed how many of the 300 new probationers are high risk, Jenkins said he could not estimate how much the probation officers’ caseloads have grown.

The Probation Department is also dealing with a higher than expected number of offenders being released into their supervision not from county jail, but from state prison.

“Even as the sheriff is seeing an increase in the parole violators coming into the jails,“ Jenkins said, “our numbers on the post-release offenders coming to the Probation Department are 25 percent above projections. “

Jenkins said since October, 913 offenders have been released from state prison to the San Diego Probation Department for supervision. So far he has hired just 22 new probation officers out of a total of 75 he plans to hire for a new department to handle the influx.

Hiring is slow, he said, because of the need for thorough background checks. Two of the new probation officers are former state parole officers who lost their jobs as a result of realignment and are now working with the same population of offenders, but at a lower salary with the county.

Jenkins said he’s working on a Community Reception Center where offenders released from state prison can spend their first seven nights when they arrive back in San Diego. More than one in five post release offenders are classified as transients with no fixed abode.

Jenkins said, of the 913 offenders released from state prison to county probation, 85 have not reported for supervision and warrants are out for their arrest.

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