How the Governor’s Budget Affects Shasta County Public SafetySource of Article:
Commentary by Sheriff Tom Bosenko
California's budget crisis has impacted every level of government: state, county and city. Painful cuts have been and will continue to be made in all areas. Inevitably, up and down the state, counties and local governments are looking at another year of reduced budgets and additional cuts.
Unfortunately, the governor cites the budget crisis as the need to make tough choices. Communities need to know that the effect of this proposal is to unwisely dump state prison inmates into county jails that are not able to safely accommodate the increased population. The Shasta County Jail is no exception. Since 1993, capacity releases have occurred due to lack of adequate bed space. Last year the issue was exacerbated with the closure of one floor of the jail (120 beds) as a result of the continuing budget crisis. In addition, AB 900, which was supposed to increase jail and prison capacity and reentry planning for inmates' return to the community, is bogged down in bureaucratic red tape and cumbersome processes and has not yet resulted in a single new county jail bed or reentry facility being opened. The governor's budget proposal dumps inmates from overcrowded prisons into overcrowded jails with no apparent solution contemplated. This move impacts public safety here and throughout the state.
On Jan. 25, 2010, SBX3 18 takes effect. This measure increases sentencing credits for jail inmates and creates "summary parole" (unsupervised parole). Basically, many inmates will only serve 50 percent of their sentence. It will also require what would have previously been parole violators to now face new prosecution and increased time in county jail rather than return to state prison custody (without benefit of a daily jail bed rate paid to counties to hold parole violators). Taken together, these changes and proposals will put further strain on county jails and on local public safety in general. (emphasis added)
In February 2009, local public safety programs switched to being funded by a modest increase in the Vehicle License Fee. VLF was projected to replace General Fund support for Citizen Options for Public Safety on the street, rural sheriffs' funding, jails, district attorneys for prosecutions, juvenile justice programs, booking fees, and methamphetamine interdiction programs. Since February, revenues have been well under projections. Even after years of cuts to these programs, Vehicle License Fees to local public safety statewide is down as much as 27 percent per quarter from what was projected. For Shasta County, that equals a $149,000 decrease in funding. What's worse, the VLF authorization for local public safety is set to expire in June 2011. All of this directly negatively impacts public safety and sheriff's funding.
Police, sheriffs, district attorneys and probation departments are being asked to implement sweeping new policy changes against the backdrop of declining and expiring revenue sources like VLF. Dumping state prison inmates into this mix exacerbates an already unstable situation for local public safety agencies and creates increased concern about public safety in our communities. (emphasis added).
California State Sheriffs' Association has historically worked in a cooperative and collegial manner with the governor and Legislature and we expect to continue that stance this year. However, we are increasingly concerned about proposals related to parole, county jails, and increased local responsibility at a time when we are struggling to fund and manage our current responsibilities and inmate populations. We urge very careful scrutiny of these proposals and that Legislators and government officials weigh fiscal benefit against public safety impact before making further changes this year. Citizens should voice their concerns to their state Legislators.