Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison inmate population by 30,000 inmates before May 2013, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to put in motion an aggressive Public Safety Realignment effort, also referred to as “prison realignment” and by its Assembly Bill number, AB 109. Implemented in October, realignment shifts the responsibility for perpetrators of non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual offenses to counties, covering convictions after Oct. 1, 2011, and any releases from state prison. Where the latter offenders would have gone to state parole before realignment, counties are now obligated to supervise the parolee under a system called Post-Release Community Supervision.
A recent editorial in the Merced Sun-Star and the Sacramento Bee indicates the plan has attracted its share of champions and detractors throughout the corrections community, and while counties and the state continue to work through the details, realignment has helped alleviate many problems in state prisons. The state prison population has decreased by 11,000 inmates since the roll-out of AB 109, and the state is on track to meet its reduction quota by mid-2013. The prison medical system, once so broken it was placed into federal receivership, has also seen gains. On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson said, “The end of the receivership appears to be in sight.”
All sides acknowledge that there is still plenty of work to be done at the state level, especially in the realms of mental health treatment and updating prison clinic facilities, but nearly four months after prison realignment first went into effect, it is clear that the unprecedented reorganization has hugely benefited the state prison system, stated the editorial.