Why isn't the state tracking recidivism after realignment?

April 25, 2013 

BEA AHBECK CASSON/bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com John Latorraca Correctional Facility in Merced Monday. (1-7-13)

After a year-and-a-half under public safety realignment, counties are deep into preparing plans for 2013-14. Have they done better or worse than the state in reducing re-offense rates for those convicted of nonviolent, nonserious, non-sex offenses? The jury is still out, primarily because legislators and the governor failed to include statewide collection of data. That needs to change.

The new Board of State and Community Corrections, Chief Probation Officers of California, Administrative Office of the Courts and California State Sheriffs' Association each voluntarily collect some data, but there is no uniform statewide monitoring of recidivism.

Counties also are at varying levels of accepting responsibility for reducing recidivism. In the first year of realignment, the average county allocated 35 percent to the sheriff's department, primarily for jails, and 34 percent to probation, primarily for supervision. That left little for community organizations providing treatment or job training.

In some respects, counties are reaping the consequences of their past practices. Instead of pursuing criminal convictions, too often counties opted to administratively send parolees back to state prison for three to four months for breaking the rules of parole (failing a drug test, not reporting on schedule or not attending treatment programs).

Residents should be asking, why didn't the county prosecute them for those serious violent crimes? Why did they pursue only a technical violation, with a short stay in state prison, instead of a criminal conviction with a new sentence? Under realignment, counties must take responsibility when parolees break rules -- or pursue a criminal conviction, as it should be.

Californians should insist that lawmakers require uniform statewide collection of data. That's the only way for voters to see if realignment is working and to hold county officials accountable for reducing recidivism.

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