In October of 2011, California legislation went into effect that significantly changes how the criminal justice system treats non-violent offenders in its care. Some public officials have commented on these changes in Public Officials Talk About Public Safety Realignment. Information about these changes can be found on the Criminal Justice Realignment Act website.
The realignment act boasts a new sentencing sceme. Some of the changes include giving local agencies responsibility, and money, for keeping certain low-level offenders out of prison, either by holding them in county jails or by placing them under out-of-custody supervision. The goal is to keep as many offenders out of prison as possible. This is an effort of the state to comply with the federal court’s order to reduce the state prison population.
Judges will not be required to sentence”non-violent, non-serious, non-sex” felons to local custody or supervised release as opposed to to state prison.
Courts also will also now play a role in deciding whether a convicted person’s post-release supervision should be revoked for any violation. Convicted persons will be supervised by probation instead of parole. Probation will be involved with violations and have the option to include short-term “flash” incarceration. If the department seeks to revoke the offender’s community supervision, the local judge will hear the petition and can decide whether to send offenders back to jail for up to 180 days.
In July of 2013 courts will begin to hear parole revocation hearings as well.
According to Allen Hopper, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union in California, North County Times, Brandon Lowrey, December 17, 2011,
“Realignment is an opportunity to re-examine how the justice system treats non-serious offenders. It goes beyond a desire to protect the public, the idea that we have to punish by keeping people in a cage for these low-level offenses is … an expensive indulgence we can no longer afford.”
Realignment relies on community resources for individuals adjusting to society. Such resources require funding that some public officials say California needs. Stakeholders claim that they will not return from Sacramento without the funding that is needed to provide resources in the counties where offenders will receive treatment.
Lauren K Johnson represents individuals accused of crimes throughout Southern California.