SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – Nearly 500 law enforcement and county leaders representing the state’s 58 counties gathered in Sacramento, Calif., on September 21 for a statewide conference aimed at assisting local officials to successfully implement public safety realignment in California, as mandated by AB 109.
“We’re here not as partisans but as Californians first to make the process of criminal justice work,” said Gov. Jerry Brown in his keynote speech at the conference. “It’s not just a matter of locking up. It’s a matter of supervision. It’s a matter of helping people straighten out their lives. The goal is public safety, living within our scarce means, and recognizing that the people who are closest to the problem, who are most affected by it, can provide the most flexible, the most sensitive and the most common sense response.”
In his speech, Brown promised a constitutional amendment to fund realignment, slated to go into effect October 1. Under the shift, counties rather than the state, will take responsibility for the custody, treatment, and supervision of individuals convicted of specified nonviolent, non-serious, non-sex crimes. Held at the Sacramento Convention Center, “Innovations in Public Safety and Justice in California: Advancing Effective Justice Realignment” highlighted successful evidence-based strategies and programs from around California and the country that can help counties reduce recidivism and costs while enhancing public safety.
“Today’s conference demonstrated the great work being done in California and across the country that can be incorporated into the local realignment planning process,” said Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione, President of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC). “We thank the Governor for his continued leadership and commitment to making realignment a success. Counties are extremely concerned about the significant new responsibilities the state has imposed on us without the constitutional protections that ensure ongoing, reliable funding. It is clear the Governor recognizes the need for this constitutional guarantee to protect vital local services.”
Speakers from California jurisdictions as diverse as East Palo Alto, Santa Cruz and Napa and from other states such as Texas, Oregon and Colorado showcased innovative strategies by local law enforcement at the pretrial, sentencing and supervision stages. For example, in Santa Cruz County, local officials were able to achieve a 25-percent jail population reduction and significant cost savings by instituting risk-based assessment strategies at the pretrial and probation supervision levels, and using alternative approaches with low-level offenders and technical violators.
“If implemented successfully, evidence-based strategies can reduce jail overcrowding and recidivism, avoid costly jail expansions, and keep our communities safe,” said Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko.
In addition to Governor Brown, featured speakers and panelists included East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald L. Davis; Fresno County Probation Chief Linda Penner, President, Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC); Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, President, California State Sheriffs Association(CSSA); Napa County Probation Chief Mary Butler; Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein; Napa County Police Chief Rich Melton; Riverside County Supervisor Tavaglione; San Diego Judge David Danielson; Santa Cruz County Probation Chief Scott MacDonald; Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak; Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold; Solano County Sheriff Gary R. Stanton; and Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten, President of the California District Attorneys Association.
“We need to work together to share in the success of realignment here in California,” said Ventura County District Attorney Totten. “We stand at the precipice of what can only be described as one of the most significant reforms of California’s sentencing laws in a generation. This conference was a great opportunity to reach a broad audience around evidence-based practices that have been tested in other jurisdictions and their value.”
Presented in partnership with CSAC, CSSA, CPOC, the conference was sponsored by the California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, and the Women’s Foundation of California. For more information about the conference, please visit: Californiarealignment.org.