Former California corrections official: AB 109 can help reform criminal justice

Tom Hoffman, former Director of the Department of Adult Parole Operations for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, recently wrote an article for California Forward arguing that AB 109 presents the state with a unique opportunity to reform the criminal justice system for the better.

Hoffman said the legislation, which moves the responsibility for low-level offenders from the state to the counties, has helped him and other police leaders throughout the state better understand the complexities of reentry and parole supervision. While he said AB 109 is challenging to implement, it can help rehabilitate offenders, reduce recidivism, keep jail and prison counts down, and enhance public safety if employed successfully.

For AB 109 to be successful, the causes of criminal behavior need to be contemplated and addressed throughout the decision making process in the justice system, according to Hoffman. This means each offender is tried, sentenced and treated according to the unique circumstances surrounding his or her crime. Police must also develop positive, long-term relationships with parolees and probationers, their families and the service providers. Such relationships are essential for parolees and probationers’ successful transition from jail or prison back to their communities.

Successful implementation of AB 109 also depends on continued collaboration between representatives across the state, including police, sheriffs, district attorneys, public defenders, probation and parole service providers, elected officials and other key stakeholders. These representative must continue discussing and developing meaningful sentence reform; community-based rehabilitative services, such as the day reporting centers GEO Reentry operates; training for court officers in evidence-based practices and risk assessment; risk-based bail reform; and other key considerations. Such collaboration better equips members of the criminal justice system to address criminal behavior.

California Forward is a nonprofit organization that aims to strengthen collaboration between state and local government. Read Hoffman’s full article on California Forward’s website.