GMSP: Long says early prisoner release issues a priority for Ventura County
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: November 28, 2012
It’s known formally as Public Safety Realignment, but it really is the mandated shifting of thousands of prisoners from state prisons to local jails - a move that will trigger a domino effect of early releases to create more room.
And that means hundreds of prisoners are being transferred to the Ventura County Jail, Supervisor Kathy Long told those attending the November Good Morning Santa Paula. The Chamber of Commerce-sponsored breakfast meeting was held at Garman’s Pub and hosted by Ventura County Medical Center/Santa Paula Hospital.
The shifting population of convicted criminals was court ordered due to overcrowding in state prisons, where those sentenced to one year or more in jail are sentenced to serve. Normally the county jail population holds prisoners convicted of lesser, primarily non-violent crimes whose sentences are less than one year.
Long noted that 700 “convicted individuals who would have normally been sent to state prison will now be incarcerated in our county jail.... Since October 2011 we have seen an increase of 225 convicted individuals” added to the county jail, with sentences ranging from two to 12 years.
Long said the new prisoner population will stress the local system, but the county has been proactive in dealing with the situation and already has implemented programs and formed partnerships and task forces. “The sheriff and the courts are doing everything to keep jail population down by alternative programs” such as electronic monitoring for lower-level offenders.
The county has invested more than $1 million so far in staffing and equipment, but if Proposition 30 had failed Ventura County could have lost as much as $15 million annually to deal with realignment, which Long said is a “seismic shift” in caretaking.
“We have a strong community corrections partnership” between probation, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, police departments, the district attorney, social services, mental health and community based organizations among others that are evaluating existing programs and examining new ones.
“We think the county can do a better job” tackling the issue for the benefit of all concerned, including those released from jail. “We want them to turn their lives around and not re-offend,” noted Long.
“This partnership is unique in our state because they are working collaboratively” as a whole rather than competing for funding, while jointly addressing increased community contact, connection to services, reentry programs and reducing recidivism for those released from jail.
Long said hundreds of inmates will “return to the county jail system, will return to the community,” and the county will “act accordingly to make sure the community stays safe” by not offering early release to any prisoner deemed higher risk. “Our jail is not at capacity,” and, said Long, “we will act accordingly to make sure our community is safe.”