Cities could be swamped by more than 9,000 parolees

Cities in Los Angeles County could be liable for the supervision of more than 9,000 parolees under a proposed budget plan that would eliminate and shift a significant portion of state responsibilities to local governments.

Glendale police have already seen the number of parolees jump to 306 from 60 to 80 last year, when state prison authorities began releasing thousands of nonviolent convicts early to relieve overcrowding in state facilities. Burbank police have logged 97 parolees who claim the city as their home, officials reported.

Inmates eligible for early release cannot have been convicted of serious or violent offenses, but could include some convicted of burglary, drug violations and other crimes.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget plan would shift duties for housing low-level inmates and monitoring parolees to counties, which some officials say would undoubtedly impact city police resources.

“For the city of represents a major concern for us to have these individuals come back to our communities without supervision, without conditions and without any real accountability for their behavior,” Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa told a group of community leaders last week.

Inmates released under the proposed plan would be transferred to county facilities once the fiscal year commences, said Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The corrections system, he said, houses 50,000 to 60,000 inmates who are serving 90- to 100-day short-term sentences.

Having to accommodate those inmates has not only backed up the prison system, but diminished the chances that inmates will be able to reintegrate into society upon release, Hidalgo said.

Pulling low-level inmates from their communities to serve short-term sentences in highly volatile prison environments can increase their chances of recidivism, he added.

Implementing the new plan would allow the corrections system to do what it was designed to do, which was to serve longer-term, serious and violent offenders, Hidalgo said.

The process would likely be fully implemented by 2014-15, and counties would receive about $705.1 million to fund housing and services for offenders, according to the California Department of Finance.

Local communities, Hidalgo said, have a better understanding of, and access to, services that could best serve their inmates.

“The locals can do that better than the state,” Hidalgo said.

The corrections department will retain responsibility of dangerous offenders, including parolees who are third-strikers, serious, violent and high-risk sex offenders, he added.

But since the corrections department will have a reduced caseload, he said, staffing also would be cut.

That also means counties will have to devise their own plans to monitor low-level parolees. Brown’s office has proposed funding that program at $183 million.

Counties will also have to determine how they will handle juvenile justice, which under Brown’s plan also would see reduced state funding. Counties must either contract with the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice to house all youth offenders or take them all into a county program.

“It’s not going to work,” Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse said. “It’s just one larger form of government pushing down the problem.”

LaChasse said he was concerned that parolees from nearby communities would enter Burbank to commit crimes and negatively impact public safety.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has proposed a parole services division within his department to manage parolees and reduce recidivism.

In a Feb. 22 proposal to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Baca stated that his plan to supervise parolees “is expected to be more effective than current state practices” because it offers an education-based confinement plan.

Still, long-term funding options to house inmates, monitor parolees and provide them with education and job resources remains unsettled.

The Verdugo Jobs Center received a $171,959-grant last year to provide employment services, case management and job-placement assistance to 100 early release parolees.

But the program’s coordinator, Don Nakamoto, said it is unclear whether the city will receive the state funding next year.

“It’s kind of up in the air,” he said.

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