SACRAMENTO - The Oct. 1 California prison realignment means thousands of low-level convicted suspects who haven't committed a serious, violent or sex crime will remain in county jails instead of being sent to state prisons.
Gov. Jerry Brown has guaranteed law enforcement that the money was available to pay for the plan. Brown said he would go to the voters, if necessary, to get funding by putting an amendment on the ballot.
Still, Sacramento County Sheriff, Scott Jones, faces a big job and even bigger questions concerning a major shift ahead and the money to make it happen.
Jones held a special "Sheriff's Chat" in Orangevale on Monday evening to fielded concerns from county residents.
One couple, Corey and Robert Gibson, drove across town and patiently waited nearly an hour to talk to Jones.
Jones listened intently as the Gibsons described their frightening experience early Saturday morning when a self-admitted convict tried to break into their father's worktruck.
"He turned around and looked at my dad and said, 'I'm a convict,'" Corey Gibson said.
In the past six months, eight homes and as many cars on the Gibsons's street have been broken into. Floodlights and surveillance cameras have gone up on some of the homes due to resident concerns about crime.
"Crime is likely to go up in every neighborhood in the community," Jones said.
The plan is designed to reduce overcrowding at state prisons by keeping non-violent offenders in county jails. That means other low-level inmates in the jails could be released early, Jones explained.
Law enforcment officials said their crimes could include breaking into cars, grand theft auto, passing bad checks and possessing small amounts of drugs.
The Gibsons wondered how the impending changes might affect crime and response time in their neighborhood.
"If you are not responding now, what are you going to do when we have a whole bunch of them?" Corey Gibson asked Jones.
Jones realizes that he and others will have to do more with less staffing, given the recent budget cuts. "We''ll become more innovative and collaborative," he said.
Jones doesn't oppose realignment, but is worried about the funding and the logistics. "We're rocketing towards an Oct. 1 implementation date that is artificial," Jones said. "The only reason we're talking re-alignment, it's not because we're ready, because we're not. It's not because the details are worked out, because they're not. It's not because this is sufficiently funded, because it's certainly is not. It's because of a court-ordered mandate to reduce state prison population."
There are plenty of supporters and skeptics. Right now, the prison recidivism rate stands at 70 percent after just two years.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org
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