Sacramento County supervisors exert control over realignment money

bbranan@sacbee.comApril 24, 2013 

Sacramento County supervisors decided Tuesday that they will take greater control over how the county spends money to manage criminal offenders that has come from the state for more than two years.

The change could result in a greater share of money going toward rehabilitation of inmates and probationers.

Supervisors previously thought a panel of mostly unelected county law-enforcement and social service officials, the Community Corrections Partnership, had primary budget authority.

Such committees were created in a 2011 state law, known as realignment, that gave counties responsibility for lower-level offenders released from prison and other offenders who are sentenced to jail instead of prison.

County Counsel John Whisenhunt told supervisors Tuesday that nothing in the law precludes supervisors from exercising their constitutional right to enact budgets.

Supervisors approved a resolution Tuesday that says final budgeting authority lies with the board and budgets submitted by the partnership will be considered recommendations.

That shift in policy may not mean any immediate budget changes. The board voted Tuesday to accept the Community Corrections Partnership's proposed $28 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 as a recommendation. That budget mirrors the current year's fiscal plan.

However, the county expects to get additional funding from the state, and a majority of supervisors have said they would like the county to spend more money trying to rehabilitate offenders.

Supervisors won't formally decide on whether to adopt the committee's recommendations until they vote on the county's overall budget this summer.

The state started diverting lower-level offenders to counties in 2011 to reduce its prison population. Since that time, Sacramento County has faced criticism for spending most of its funding on incarceration and supervision.

The state law mandating the switch in responsibility says county supervisors could only reject plans from Community Corrections Partnerships with a supermajority vote.

The provision created a conflict in Sacramento County between supervisors and the partnership. Supervisors have made a number of requests of the partnership that they say haven't been heard, particularly when it comes to rehabilitation spending.

Supervisor Phil Serna said previous budgets lacked accountability because most of the people on the partnership are not elected.

Acting Chief Probation Officer Suzanne Collins, who heads the partnership, said the body has tried to address the concerns of supervisors. She said she doesn't know enough about the law to respond to Whisenhunt's interpretation.

Whisenhunt said state law doesn't offer much guidance on the roles of county supervisors and the partnerships. County supervisors have exerted strong control over budgeting in some places, such as Los Angeles County, where the board eliminated the partnership, Whisenhunt said.

Call The Bee's Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @bradb_at_sacbee.

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