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L.A. County supervisors raise questions about parolee plan

July 12, 2011 |  3:51 pm

Kn5bmpnc The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors raised new questions Tuesday about Sheriff Lee Baca’s proposal to take on parolee supervision.

By year’s end, the state will begin passing over responsibility for thousands of low-level parolees to local governments. In virtually every county in the state, that responsibility will be handled by county probation officers, who already do similar post-release casework.

But in L.A. County, Sheriff Lee Baca is making a push to have his deputies take on the task. The setup would be unprecedented: No law enforcement agency in the nation, officials say, handles parole or probation supervision, a task more oriented toward social work.

The board decided Tuesday to further delay its decision,seeming less than enthused about the two options.

Supervisor Gloria Molina asked sheriff’s officials if it made sense to have deputies -- who have gone through expensive general law enforcement training -- take on the specialized task of parolee supervision.

She also expressed concern that the Sheriff's Department will not have facilities specifically designated for parolee check-ins, instead relying on already-crowded patrol stations, rented courthouse space and a mobile unit or two.

The proposal has already raised questions of potential conflicts of interest in allowing the same agency that arrests and jails criminals to also be responsible for rehabilitating them on the outside.

Still, more than one supervisor seemed wary of handing over new responsibilities to the Probation Department, which is under federal oversight because of troubles in its juvenile facilities.

Three of five supervisors have floated the idea of a hybrid plan that includes both agencies. Another supervisor is leaning toward probation, and one has remained neutral.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told Baca that his proposal faced a higher “burden of persuasion” because no other county in the state is considering a similar plan.

Still, he said Baca’s reputation as a progressive law enforcement thinker forced the board to take his proposal seriously.

“The problem is, not all deputy sheriffs, not all police are like you,” Yaroslavsky said, adding he’d support Baca’s plan if the deputies who would take on the task “were clones of Lee Baca.”

County officials have been mulling the plan for months, and have held several meetings on the issue.

On Tuesday, Molina asked county staff to “create some kind of a recommendation” for the board before a decision is reached on a lead agency.


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Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times