(Victor Valley)-– The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors today approved a plan to implement a new state requirement that, starting Saturday, gives counties responsibility for thousands of state prison parolees as well as those convicted of “low-level” crimes in the future who will serve time in county jail instead of state prison.
“Our public safety leaders have been working for months on an effective plan to handle this population,” said First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. “This puts an additional strain on our overtaxed local jail system. However, based on the experience and professionalism of our county leaders, we are well prepared to address the situation while doing everything we can to keep the public safe.”
As a result of Assembly Bill 109, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on April 4, 2011, the County Probation Department will be responsible for supervising certain state prisoners released on parole after October 1. In addition, newly convicted low-level offenders who would normally go to state prison will now be the responsibility of the county jail system.
The Probation Department expects to have up to 6,500 “Post Release Community Supervision” offenders added to its caseload over the next three years. The County is in the process of hiring more than 200 public safety personnel, including about 100 additional probation officers. In addition, 3,600 low-level offenders per year from San Bernardino County who would have gone to state prison must now remain in the local jail system.
Offenders in the program must be classified as non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders. However, that applies only to the current offense. A significant portion of the “low-level” offenders have significant, sometimes violent, criminal histories. The County jail system is at or near its capacity of 6,100 inmates and only serious offenders are incarcerated there.
The county Probation Department and Department of Behavioral Health have an array of programs to improve the prospects of rehabilitation. Those programs include three Day Reporting Centers where released inmates will be supervised and provided with a variety of classes and treatment for substance abuse, mental health and medical issues. The County Probation Department has a 10 percent recidivism rate, compared to nearly 70 percent for state offenders.
Supervisor Mitzelfelt on Monday hosted a public forum in Victorville where top county officials explained to the public how the plan would be implemented.