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Report: Realignment Is Going Smoothly In Most Counties

Publication Date: 
July 26, 2012
Daily Journal
Henry Meier

Professor Joan Petersilia spoke with Henry Meier of the Daily Journal to discuss improvements in the number of unaccounted-for offenders.

Despite warnings of a criminal justice system besieged under the plan to transition offenders from the state to local level, data released by the Chief Probation Officers of California Wednesday suggests the population shift is going smoothly in most counties.

The data was compiled from a uniform reporting agreement among all of the state's 58 county probation offices and shows some local programs doing better than anticipated, even outperforming their state level counterparts in some cases.


Stanford Law School Professor Joan Petersilia, who co-directs the school's Criminal Justice Center and who advised former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on criminal justice policies, said the total state numbers are a positive sign.

"Generally it tells us the sky is not falling," she said. "The numbers initially were higher than people expected but have now stabilized, which is a barometer that things are moving along pretty well."

But there are also causes for concern. The low number of new cases since the beginning of realignment that have utilized the newly created split sentencing option, which allow for hybrid jail and probation sentences, was troubling, according to Petersilia.

"While [the report] says that split sentences are being applied more they're still not being applied in 80 percent of cases," she said.


Petersilia said the improvement in unaccounted for offenders at the local level could partially be attributed to the "kinder, friendlier and gentler" probation department culture that provides more rehabilitative services than parole. The fact that individuals on post-release community supervision cannot be returned to prison or jail for so-called "technical violations," i.e. a failed drug tests or not reporting to a supervisory officer on time, could also be encouraging more offenders to report in, she said.