Four decades of flawed criminal justice policies have created negative impacts that will last for generations, especially for low income families and communities of color. Then, in 2014 passage of Proposition 47 by California voters offered a way to reverse some of those impacts. The promise of Prop. 47 will only be fulfilled, however, when those who have their records cleared under the proposition are able to fully access supports, like affordable housing and job opportunities, critical to stability and security.
That is why Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle’s recently proposed plan to measure the county money save by Proposition 47 is a step in the right direction.
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) the savings are big. In April 2016, the LAO released an analysis of the impacts of Proposition 47 on various agencies in Alameda County.
The LAO reported the jail system saw an immediate 13 percent reduction in its population, and the probation department now supervises 600 fewer people due to Proposition 47. These reductions represent an estimated savings of $1.7 million annually, in addition to estimated future staff savings of approximately $600,000 to $2.7 million annually based on further caseload reductions due to Proposition 47.
While translating reduced caseloads into increased community-based services will require creativity, the first step is for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to quantify the savings and then reinvest them into services that create stability and security.
Supervisor Valle’s plan has the potential to do just that, but only if the savings are effectively and accurately measured.
Luckily, Alameda County has a blueprint for success with effective and proven practices from Los Angeles County that will allow accurate calculation of savings, including:
Collaboration between the county administrator and the county auditor-controller to establish a transparent process by which local Proposition 47 savings are accurately identified and calculated through a uniform tracking mechanism.
A comprehensive accounting of potential sources of savings to guide departments and the auditor-controller in ensuring consistent and accurate calculations. This includes data on reductions in staffing, including overall hours and overtime; services and supplies for all departments; general jail operating costs, including but not limited to reductions in jail beds, meals and any program or service delivered inside the jail; probation caseloads and supervision requirements for Proposition 47 misdemeanors in comparison to felonies; and related court-appointed attorney costs.
Submission of quarterly reports from the departments of the sheriff, probation, district attorney and public defender on any changes that have a fiscal impact related to services, program delivery, and staffing to inform accurate ongoing cost savings resulting from Proposition 47.
Alameda County has shown real leadership on advancing cost-effective, sensible public safety reforms. The county has supported 50 percent of realignment funding for community based programs, prioritized a Community Capacity Fund and is implementing a county hiring initiative for formerly incarcerated people with felonies.
Now, calculating local savings from Proposition 47 for the purposes of investing them into the community is one more way for the county to lead the state on sensible reforms and reinvestment.
Tash Nguyen is a local advocate at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights based in Oakland. In her role, works to amplify grassroots movements led by people most directly affected by prisons and policing.
East Bay Times