Rural counties seek bigger share of prison money
Lawmakers from 13 rural Central California counties are asking Gov. Jerry Brown to cut them a bigger slice of the prison realignment pie.
Brown's novel 2011 plan promised dramatic cuts in prison crowding by sending low-level, nonviolent offenders to serve their time in county jails, or county rehabilitation programs, rather than state lockup. Along with tens of thousands of felons came the promise of billions of dollars in state spending.
How that money gets carved up is the question. In a letter hand-delivered today to Brown, 13 rural lawmakers contend urban counties such as San Francisco and Marin are receiving more than $25,000 per new offender, while Kern and Fresno receive less than $8,000 per felon.
They claim one Central Valley county, Kern, has nearly twice the expected number of paroled felons to supervise, and local crime rates are beginning to rise. "If the current allocation formula continues, counties with higher numbers of AB 109 offenders will have great difficulty maintaining public safety," the lawmakers wrote.
“One thing is clear: Funding must follow the offender." said Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), one of the co-signers.
While the prison realignment bill is sending more low-level felons to counties than they say they expected, it has failed to meet the state's own goals of reducing prison crowding to federal caps. Brown's prison administration is asking a panel of federal judges to give the state six additional months to either find new ways to come into compliance or prove that prison healthcare has improved sufficiently even if crowded conditions have not.
-- Paige St. John in Sacramento