Sacramento County inmate, probation funds allocated

bbranan@sacbee.comAugust 24, 2012 

Some Sacramento County leaders worry that mental health and probation services are underfunded in a budget approved Thursday to handle criminal offenders sent to counties under a recent state law.

The second so-called realignment budget – approved by the county's Community Corrections Partnership – allocates almost all of the $30 million budget to the Sheriff's Department and the Probation Department.

Since Oct. 1, Sacramento and other California counties have been receiving lower-level offenders released from state prisons and sentenced to jail instead of prison.

State lawmakers approved the law in March 2011, just months before the Supreme Court ruled that California must ease prison overcrowding.

Probation received about $800,000 less than it requested. That means the department expects that it won't be able to supervise up to 400 offenders released from state prison – offenders who previously were the responsibility of the state.

The department's requests for a specialized supervision unit, GPS monitoring and a fugitive apprehension team will go unfunded in the fiscal year that started July 1.

Mental health services also received far less than requested. The partnership earlier this year identified mental health and substance abuse services as the biggest gap in the county's plan to handle the new offenders.

The budget calls for about $700,000 in mental health spending, instead of the $2.5 million requested. Most of the money will pay for psychotropic medicine.

"I am concerned that probation doesn't have enough money for supervision and there's not enough money for behavioral health," said Ann Edwards, director of the Countywide Services Agency, which is responsible for county social services.

Still, Edwards endorsed the plan, which was approved by by a 6 to 1 vote. Public Defender Paulino Durán opposed the budget.

Durán said greater emphasis should be put on probation and less on the Sheriff's Department. It is more important to watch offenders in the community than in the jail, he said.

The sheriff received 68 percent of the funds, most of which will go to jail costs. Probation will receive 29.2 percent of the budget.

Durán also objected to using the funds to pay $100,000 for a deputy district attorney. He said that District Attorney Jan Scully needs the position to handle increased responsibilities from the state law, but that the county has more pressing needs, such as rehabilitation for offenders.

The law emphasized rehabilitation over incarceration but left it up to counties how to spend state funds to handle the new offenders. Sacramento County has regularly faced criticism for spending more on jail costs than programs to help offenders reintegrate into society.

Edwards said the partnership should receive reports about the effectiveness of various programs, so it can make more informed choices in next year's budget.

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