Prison Realignment Brings More Offenders Than Projected To San Diego
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Thursday, July 12th. Our top story on Midday Edition, problems with prison realignment. Ever since the program began last October, we've been hearing that San Diego is well-prepared and handling the realignment well. The new system keeps many offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes in county jails to serve out their sentences instead ever being sent to state prison. It shifted monitoring of some state parolees to the county probation office. But additional designations of what constitute nonviolent offenses and the disturbing rearrests of some former state prisoners in San Diego are causing concern. My guests, Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego County district attorney, welcome to the show. DUMANIS: Good morning. CAVANAUGH: Matt Jenkins is chief of probation for San Diego County. Welcome back. JENKINS: Good morning, Maureen. Happy to be here. CAVANAUGH: Critics of this program have argued that realignment will be a risk to public safety. Now we hear six of the low-level offenders on probation here in San Diego have been rearrested on suspicious of murder or attempted murder. How concerned are you by that turn of events, da dumannis DUMANIS: Well, I've always been concerned. And I think what Sacramento has done is hand us their problems both budgetary and in prison realignment. And not given us the money that we need to get it accomplished. And it wasn't done in a very that you feel way. So I think San Diego is doing the best out of everyone in the state because we collaborate and cooperate so well, and we've also had a reentry program before this. But wee always been concerned that some of these prisoners will reoffend. CAVANAUGH: Do she's arrests indicate problems with the realignment of the probationers? JENKINS: We've always been concerned. I can't tell you that these arrests indicate problems with the supervision. We anticipated some of these offenders would commit crimes. And our task is trying to minimize that, providing the level of supervision so they would not be offending against the community. What we've been doing is try to work in collaboration with our law enforcement partners to make sure we have the highest level of supervision on them. What they did though is dump parole onto probation with little warning, really. And this is a totally different kind of person than probation is used to dealing with. They're used to dealing with people that would stay here locally. Now what we have is more serious criminals who have been back and forth to prison and mack is having to hire or probation officers but he can't do it fast enough. CAVANAUGH: We were promised non, non, nons coming back to be monitored by county probation. So why are they significantly different than the types of people that county probation has been monitoring? JENKINS: As Bonnie described, the probation typical supervises individuals who instead of going to prison the Court says I'm going to give you an opportunity to remain locally under the supervision of the probation officer. The higher risk offenders go off to prison, arguably, and the lower risk offenders stay here under probation. But even with that designation, that only describes the offense for which they went to prison. It does not speak to and has not spoken to what their histories have been. So what we're finding out, and I actually mentioned this before we saw right away that a number of the criminals came here with a higher level of sophistication than a true low-level offender would have. CAVANAUGH: Wouldn't state parolees wind up back in San Diego? It's just a different monitoring situation? JENKINS: Exactly. These are not new people that otherwise wouldn't have come to San Diego. What's changed is instead of them reporting to a parole agent, they're reporting to a probation officer. And they also Washington released early. The public is still commonly confusod that point. This is not early release. It's a shift. DUMANIS: But it's -- they're career criminals, in essence, that parole was supervising and had different tools available to them, and the parole officers were trained on career criminal behavior, not that probation isn't, but it's again a different population than what they're used to. Basically probation as a former judge is somebody that you want to take a chance on, somebody basically you're mad at that has a habit, drug habit or mental health issues that you think you can rehabilitate. Those in prison are the ones over and over and over again that you have given chance after chance and sent back of the it's a whole different ball game with this new population. And just because the offense that they're in prison for is now being released was nonviolent doesn't mean they haven't had guns in their past or a history of violence in the institution. JENKINS: It absolutely has put a strain on our office. We haven't been able to bring on as many officers as we wanted to at this time. We're about 11% ahead of the projections for this period in time. What we've done, and again, it's a testament to the strong criminal justice collaboration here in San Diego County. We've worked in that much more closer collaboration with our law enforcement partners. Sheriff gore and I launched a program called tracking known offender where is we share information with sheriff's deputies and they work in concert with probation officers in providing superviolation on probationers in the community. We're expanding that program to all of the sheriff's jurisdictions. From day 1, since realignment started, I've been reporting to the police chiefs in the county the number of postrelease offenders that are in their city each month. And what we also started is now every time one of these offenders comes out, we send them a notification sheet with that individual's picture, address, their offense, and the probation officer who's responsible for supervising them. So we have put those steps in place to mitigate to some degree the higher percentage that we have had at this point and the fact that we're still working to bring probation officers online and to train them. CAVANAUGH: These new designations of crimes that I want to talk to you about are expected to bring even more former state parolees to be monitored here in San Diego, and also keep them here. They're never going to be sent to state prison. And the new law now qualifies certain weapons crime, seriously injuring a police officer. How do these sorts of crimes, explosives charges, weapons charges, how do they fall under the umbrella of nonviolent crimes? DUMANIS: It's defined by statue. So it's serious and violent crimes are by statue, and they just list the ones that are. And if it's not in there, then by virtue of that, it becomes a nonviolent crime. 290 registration is also excluded. But there are certain sex crimes that you don't have to register for. That's what we had a problem with all along. It was sold to the community as nonviolent. But in fact, you have people that are nonviolent or serious offenders. But it's not just that that we're seeing now. Don't forget, we're getting people released from prison on community supervision or even parole, but also there are new crimes that people are committing that people will not go to prison on. They will serve their time locally. So it has a domino effect. Jails are almost to their capacity of the CAVANAUGH: 92%, right? DUMANIS: That's right. Actually I think it's higher right now. The sheriff has had to implement electronic supervision as well as home detention and is beginning that process. People can't stay in jail as long as they should, and in essence it becomes a prison. I think the longest sense right now is 10 years and five months. That's unheard of before. We usually keep people there for no longer than a year. CAVANAUGH: How are you working to try to coordinate this so that the guards in our local jails are being trained to deal with this new type of offender? DUMANIS: We're all working together. Like Mack said, the collaboration between the Courts, the probation, district attorney, sheriff, Public Defender, in San Diego we work together, we meet regular, we have committees that meet regularly to identify these risks and try and work on them. But let me be clear. There is some funding now, it's not enough even now, but there is no dedicated revenue stream or guaranteed funding that we have. So if Sacramento decides to cut that funding, the county is left holding the bag. So we're concerned about what we're seeing, but it's still too early to make any judgments about who and why this is happening. CAVANAUGH: Chief Jenkins, referring to that letter you sent to the supervisors again, it seems like the county, one of the strategies is to make a big push to identify which of the people convicted of these crimes need what kind of help and what kind of monitoring. How are you making that designation? JENKINS: We're applying evidence-based practices, and we're following the template that da Dumanis laid out with the very successful SB618 program. We're conducting assessments on all of the individuals as they come back, and that tells us the level of supervision that they require, and it tells us the types of factors that have led to their criminal offending behavior in the first place. And we know substance abuse treatment is one of their needs, many of them also need stable housing. So from the assessment process, we're putting in process steps so that each one of them will have case plans that my officers are responsible for implementing and super vizzing, working in collaboration with community providers to try and put together a plan that addresses their deficits to reduce the risk of recidivism. CAVANAUGH: You reference the reentry program, San Diego County's reentry program. There was a SANDAG report saying that it saved the county $10 million over five years. But the funding was cut in June. So I'm wondering, will you be able to continue any parts of this program without that funding? DUMANIS: Well, it's not just a matter of funding, it's the new law makes it obsolete. So we are looking now at the same kinds of things as the chief said that we have learned from that experience. So I think it was good. We saved the county and the state money, and we partnered with the department of corrections in doing that. And I think that's why we're more prepare leader in San Diego County. So we're going to put all of those things, intersection, but it's a different thing now. This is no more SB618. CAVANAUGH: I would imagine that even both of you dealing with this sometimes scratch your heads. DUMANIS: Are you kidding? I have a lawyer that has to specialize and go out in training on it, and our attorneys have to learn about it all the time! JENKINS: We just had a conversation, and both of us said I don't know what we're talking about here. CAVANAUGH: So what is the bottom line for people living in San Diego and wondering about public safety? Is there cause for concern with this new program? LA County might contract with kern county because their county jails are over capacity at this point. Could San Diego face a situation like that? DUMANIS: I think we are facing a public safety problem. But we are making lemonade out of lemons. And I think San Diegans should feel comfortable that all of their law enforcement, sheriff Gore, myself, the chief probation officer, Public Defender, we are doing everything we can. And the Board of Supervisors always has made public safety their No. 1 priority. So we are doing it, so they should be vigilant and understand that people are in the community now that wouldn't ordinarily be in the community. Some of them don't even have any monitoring anymore or any conditions on them anymore because that's another thing they changed. And just make sure that they work with law enforcement. We all are going to work together more. JENKINS: This does represent some risk to public safety, so we do stay engaged with Sacramento so they know what the needs are. Frankly, AB109 came out last year, but there have been a number of trailer bills. DUMANIS: They had to fix it, in other words. JENKINS: And the message to San Diego County residents, I agree with what Bonnie said. We're committed to working together with the priority of safety. That's why the fact -- we actually started working on this plan early on because of following the template that had been laid with SB618. We're making sure we capture the elements of Tearly assessment, treatment services while in jail, smooth handoff while they're in the community, matching them to the services they need. We're not where we need to be just yet, but we're working that way. DUMANIS: And assembly member Atkins is holding a town hall meeting on this prison realignment, and we're all going to be there to talk to the community to share information. But the legislator in general hasn't been too receptive to our ideas. We gave them a template to do it in a that you feel way, and nobody took us up on it. CAVANAUGH: When and where is this town hall meeting? DUMANIS: That's a good question. [ LAUGHTER ] DUMANIS: We're all going to be there. I think it's in August, but I'm not sure.
As of the beginning of July, 1,700 post-release offenders were under supervised probation in San Diego County, 799 of those offenders have been arrested for probation violations or for committing a new crime and 1,294 have been sentenced to San Diego County jail.
Six low-level offenders were also recently arrested on murder-related charges.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said that does not surprise her.
“That is the problem we’ve all been worried about,” she told KPBS. “What non-violent means is by statute, and so you can have people that have violence in their past and gun use or possession, and career criminals, where just the last thing they were sentenced on was non-violent.”
However, she said, it’s “too early to make any broad-brushed conclusions from that.”
“But it’s cause for concern,” she added.
Mack Jenkins, chief of probation for San Diego County, said he does not think these arrests indicate a problem with the county’s supervision.
He said one of the individuals who was arrested had been reporting regularly to his probation officer, “but still made a decision to do a violent crime.”
Dumanis said offenders are designated by statute.
“The district attorneys didn’t have input into that process,” she said. “Really, we were sold a concept, and that concept hasn’t come to bear.”
She said county jails were meant only to be detention centers for up to a year, and that the county was told there would be a three-year maximum on jail time.
“It’s not three years, we have somebody in there for 10 years and five months,” she said. “The jails were not meant to be prisons.”