By Rob Stallworth
With budget problems slashing through every arm of various departments of corrections across the country, it’s not easy to come up with solutions that can help stop the bleeding. In Virginia for instance, the Virginia Department of Corrections has cut the fat by either not filling open positions or reducing them, which is a fancy way of saying corrections and probation and parole officers are being laid off in critical areas, which has a direct effect on public safety and prison overcrowding.
But California may have come up with an answer. In 2011, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 109 and AB 117, part of the 2011 Public Safety Realignment legislation. These bills are aimed at reducing overcrowding, costs and recidivism within the state’s prison system. The prison realignment bill is touted as being “historic legislation that will enable California to close the revolving door of low-level inmates cycling in and out of state prisons,” said Governor Brown in a press release.
With the passage of that bill in March 2011, 40,000 inmates were released early from prisons to county jails. It wasn’t all good news, however, as crime rates rose in some areas by as much as 19%, causing a different set of problems for police departments who are already overworked and under-funded, according to this article. Similarly, county jails witnessed a boom in population and local probation officers experienced skyrocketing caseloads.
Under the bill, the county received funding from the state to help with “returning citizens” to the community. Since the money wasn’t enough to help out everybody, the police departments in Stockton, Lodi, Manteca and Tracy, decided to pull together their resources and form the Community Corrections Partnership Task Force. This task force includes probation, the courts and various other agencies that are invested in the success of those they serve. The new unit will focus on enforcement and prevention, with a focus on keeping early release offenders straight. It’s a partnership between agencies, that if proven successful, just may be the next big thing to sweep across the nation.
About the Author: Rob Stallworth is the Deputy Chief Probation and a Parole Officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections. He is also a member of the public safety outreach team for American Military University.