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Supervison of state parolees in L.A. County debated [Updated]

July 12, 2011 | 11:00 am

Photo: Lancaster Sheriff Deputies, LA County Housing Authority investigators and parole agents search Section 8 apartments and homes in Lancaster. Credit: Los Angeles Times The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors may select a lead agency Tuesday to supervise thousands of state parolees being passed down to the local level by year’s end.

In virtually every county in the state, that responsibility is being 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 decidedly more oriented toward social work.

Baca says his plan would allow offenders uninterrupted rehabilitation services, starting in his jails and continuing post-release. But his critics, including the county's chief probation officer, are describing it as a power grab.

If Baca is successful, he'll likely get to use the anticipated state funding to add some 300 new employees at a time when hiring’s gone dry.

The proposal also has presented potential conflict of interest issues, as the same agency that arrests and jails criminals will also be attempting to rehabilitate them on the outside.

In the past, all parolees released from state prison who still required supervision were assigned to state parole agents.

The transfer of thousands of nonviolent parolees to the counties is part of Gov. Jerry Brown's wider effort to shift state responsibilities to the local level with the hopes of making government more flexible to local needs -- and ideally, shaving costs.

How the Board will vote, if they do vote Tuesday, remained unclear. Some are waiting to make their leaning known, while one has come out in support of Probation, and another has endorsed a temporary hybrid plan led by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

Baca’s plan seems to be gaining traction because of Probation’s woes, including being under federal oversight because of troubles in its juvenile facilities.

Even if the Board does pick a lead agency Tuesday, a committee of county officials must then meet to formulate a specific plan (that the Board has the authority to reject) before the parolee supervision plan can be finalized.

[Updated at 11:09 p.m.: The issue will be discussed today but not voted on.]

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-- Robert Faturechi

Photo: Sheriff's deputies, L.A. County Housing Authority investigators and parole agents search Section 8 apartments and homes in Lancaster. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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