A Blank Check for Realignment

Senator Jim Nielsen
California State Senate, 4th District

More Californians have become victims living in fear thanks to the majority party’s irresponsible budgeting. Last year, Governor Brown and legislative Democrats passed a “realignment” program that shifted tens of thousands of inmates from state prison to overcrowded county jails. As a result, many inmates who should be behind bars are now in our communities, committing new crimes facing no to lesser consequences for continued criminality.  This year, even though we technically have a “budget” in place, the policies that actually implement this budget will be passed on Wednesday. Many things unrelated to the budget may be included, part of which concerns the public safety of those we represent. This budget would make things worse, and we can’t let this happen.  The public safety portion of this budget will release many more inmates early through a variety of means. There would be more un-rehabilitated criminals on the streets, serving only a tiny fraction of their sentences in jail. Some of these troubling provisions include:

  • Accelerated early release – Under current law, jail administrators can release inmates up to five days before their scheduled release when it exceeds its population cap. Democrats want to allow jail administrators to release inmates up to thirty days instead, which means dangerous criminals will serve even less time behind bars than they do now.
  • Misguided expansion of electronic monitoring – Existing law allows a county to electronically monitor inmates held without bail if they spent 30 days in jail following arraignment for a misdemeanor or 60 days on a felony. Democrats want to add a third category eligible for release through electronic monitoring. A jail administrator would make the decision consistent with the public safety “interests” of the community.

However, this provision is so vague that an inmate could be released for any reason under the guise of electronic monitoring. Think about it – what makes you feel safer – a criminal wondering the streets with a GPS bracelet or that same criminal staying behind bars where they belong? Local officials don’t have the staff to adequately monitor the bracelet anyway.

  • Less accountability from parolees – Parolees currently have to sign their names on the document listing their parole conditions. If they violate their parole, they may be held accountable because they signed a contract. Now Democrats want to remove even the minor implied contract of inmates signing their release conditions.
  • Early release for all women – Existing law allows the state to offer an early release program to female inmates if they are pregnant or a primary caregiver. However, the Democrats want to open up that program to all women inmates and eliminate the requirement that they are showing evidence-based improvement.

At a time when felons are victimizing innocent Californians yet again because of realignment, the Governor wants higher taxes to maintain the broken status quo. What we need is better budget priorities – using the tax dollars we already have and spending it on programs that actually protect us. The realignment plan in place has already resulted in skyrocketing crime in communities across California. Let’s not allow it to get even worse.

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