SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown defended his 3-year-old criminal justice realignment law Wednesday but also told California law enforcement organizations that he is open to making improvements.
The Democratic governor said that what many law enforcement officials want most is more money, but that’s still in short supply despite the state’s budget surplus.
The realignment law, pushed by Brown, took effect in October 2011. He saw it as a way of reducing prison spending while lowering the inmate population in response to federal court orders. It keeps most lower-level offenders in county jails instead of sending them to state prisons.
Brown told the Alliance of California Law Enforcement during its annual legislative day that state and local governments still are trying to find the “right mix” between incarceration and rehabilitation. Organizers include associations representing district attorneys, police chiefs, probation officers and county sheriffs.
He described the law’s rollout to date as “so far, so good.” He also defended the law’s approach of letting each of California’s 58 counties independently decide how to implement its provisions. That includes letting them decide how to spend a total of $1 billion a year allocated by the state specifically for realignment-related operations.
“It’s working at the local level in different ways from the north to the south,” Brown told reporters afterward.
Brown said during his speech that county officials have told him they are concerned about getting criminals proper mental health and drug abuse treatment. That is one of many concerns to arise since the law took effect.
County officials have been forced to release some criminals early because their jails are now overcrowded. Many also have seen an increase in jail violence as they house criminals who previously would have gone to state prisons.
They also have expressed concerns about housing inmates serving lengthy sentences in jails that were built to hold offenders no longer than a year.
“I do think we want to be very careful on any measures that raise costs,” Brown told reporters. “People always want a little more money. But other than that, I think people are pretty excited.”
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