AB 109 – What is it and what does it mean to California counties?

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When the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California in May to fix its overcrowded prison problem, citing constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, the court rejected California’s bid for more time and upheld a two-year deadline to drastically cut inmate population in its 33 prisons to 137.5% of capacity by May 2013. To get there, there are several major steps, including a reduction of 10,000 inmates by November 28 to reach 167% of capacity.

Within weeks, the state corrections secretary urged state legislators to fund a bill that had been signed into law in the spring, Assembly Bill 109, to help meet the court order. In July, legislators did, allocating $5 billion for this huge change in California corrections.

AB 109 is the cornerstone of the solution, said Corrections Secretary Matt Cates.

What is AB 109?

AB 109 shifts the responsibility for incarcerating many low-risk inmates from the state to counties. This shift from state to county is also being called “prison realignment.”

As part of this law, the state will continue to incarcerate offenders who commit serious, violent, or sexual crimes, but the counties will supervise, rehabilitate and manage low-level offenders. Up to 30,000 state prison inmates could be transferred to county jails over three years, under the bill.

Prison realignment is supported by many law enforcement agencies, including the California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, California Peace Officers’ Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, Chief Probation Officers of California, Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs and Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers Union, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Alternatives include transferring some offenders to other jurisdictions, diverting nonviolent inmates to jails and reforming parole so that fewer violators are returned to prison. By keeping these low-level offenders out of state prisons, the state says it can save almost half a billion dollars (10% of its budget) annually.

Some experts say managing low-level offenders in their home counties – either in county jail or in alternative to detention programs – should stabilize these offenders as they will be closer to home, family and can possibly keep working as they go through community corrections programs.

BI Incorporated is working with counties to explore a number of options for counties seeking to get started on AB 109 implementation. These options include day reporting centers, core curriculum day reporting programs for smaller counties, electronic monitoring programs, in-custody programs, even residential reentry programs. Funding is available for these options.  Contact Kathy Prizmich at BI if you have questions about these AB 109 solutions, or if you need a presentation on county options for an upcoming county reentry council meeting.

About the Author

Kathy Prizmich is sales executive for BI’s Reentry Supervision Services for the western U.S. Prizmich has held numerous positions with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Adult Parole Operations, California State University-Northridge, and the California Department of General Services. She served as the Deputy Director for the Office of Community Partnerships with CDCR and worked to formulate, maintain and monitor collaborative partnerships with local governments and community stakeholders to provide reentry services to parolees. Prizmich is a recipient of the Department’s Outstanding Achievement Award for her work on the High Risk Sex Offender Task Force and Housing Summit.

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