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Sonoma County ready for influx of state inmates

By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County officials said Tuesday they are prepared to handle the influx of felons that will begin in two months when the state prison system starts transferring “low-level” offenders to relieve chronic overcrowding.

“I believe, for the first year, we’re in pretty good shape,” Robert Ochs, the chief probation officer, told the county Board of Supervisors. Ochs is a member of the state-mandated Community Corrections Partnership committee charged with bracing the county for the shift.

But officials expressed uncertainty about the adequacy of state funding assistance beyond this year.

The Public Safety Realignment Act, signed April 5 by Gov. Jerry Brown, aims to reduce the state corrections population by about 33,000 inmates over the next two years. It is the primary solution to a federal court order requiring the state to solve its overcrowding

The so-called prison realignment will bring about 35 additional felons each month to Sonoma County’s jail and probation systems, Ochs told the board.

The county is set to receive about $3.24 million from the state in the final three months of the year as it begins handling the new cases.

The county also will receive an appropriation of $228,650 to help with the hiring, training, planning and other administrative costs associated with transfers. Also, the county will get a $150,000 one-time grant and $116,150 to be used by the public defender and district attorney offices to cover costs of additional parole and probation revocation hearings.

County officials raised concerns that the formula used to calculate the allocations won’t provide enough funding in upcoming years.

Counties are vying for shares of a fixed pot of state money, Supervisor Valerie Brown said. “We’re going to be pitted against one another for funding, and those formulas are going to be key,” she said.

County administrators will meet in the fall to discuss recommendations on how the funding is working and what changes are needed, Sonoma County Administrator Veronica Ferguson said.

“I’ll be able to represent us, but we’re up against the Los Angeleses and the San Bernardinos,” she said.

Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas said his corrections department can handle the influx because the jail has had hundreds of open beds for years.

However, staffing levels reflect the current jail population, and the addition of inmates will require more correctional staff by the spring.

Sheriff and probation officials were expected at next Tuesday’s meeting to approve additional positions to help their departments prepare for the additional inmates and parolees.

The impact of the shift on prosecution case loads was less clear. The impacts in part depend on the success of alternative rehabilitation programs, which are being pitched as a main component of how the county will handle additional people in the criminal justice system, District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.

Putting the onus on rehabilitation rather than punishment will work for many felons. However, there will still be people who “aren’t ready for rehabilitation,” Ravitch said.

“If a bad guy doesn’t want to get better, he’s going to re-offend,” she said.





17 Responses to “Sonoma County ready for influx of state inmates”

  1. Tim says:

    Lamo, the human cesspool continues to flourish here in Sonoma County. From the illegals to the prisoners, liberals hit the jackpot. More freeloaders sucking off the system that we’re forced to take care of. California continues to spiral down the toilet bowl.

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  2. Daniel Smith says:

    We have a broken system that is administered by clueless bureaucrats who know nothing about rehabilitation or how to address the rampant recidivism rate. It’s maintained by The California Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) who promoted the 3 strikes law which caused an inmate population boom and consequently, salary increases for the guards and union growth that went from 2,600 to 45,000 members which positioned them as the most powerful lobbies in California.

    But its much bigger than that. Ray Charles could see that prisons are big business, that’s why they started privatizing them.

    If we were really serious about addressing recidivism, crime and public safety, we would start by our Congress drafting a jobs bill that would create jobs for the poor and working class who are struggling in our ghettos and varrios. But we all know these “hoods” are the seedbed for budding criminals that are tied directly to the prison undustrial complex. If these young people in these impoverished neighborhoods had other alternatives then who would feed the beast?

    It all starts and ends with economics.

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  3. Common Sense says:

    Knows the system has some good points. People on the board claiming that 3 strikes is some kind of free ticket to prison for a minor offense, haven’t spent any time in the Courts and obviously don’t know the reality of the system. In fact, I’d like someone to prove to me that we’ve sent anyone to jail or prison on a minor MJ offense, given they aren’t even felony’s anymore. Only distribution and cultivation for sale are still felony’s. In Sonoma County, more people are referred to programs like PC100, 1210 Court and Drug Court, then are locked up for minor drug offenses. There are many restrictions on when and how a strike is charged and they are never charged without a basis in the law and a basis in fact, i.e. the history and current offense calls for it. People can talk all they want, but the reality is that people in prison today had to really earn their ticket there. BTW, people will be released into their county of offense, so we will only get back who we sent and Pearl, I’m a little disappointed in your comment. People who are daily drug abusers, especially the heavy stuff have many medical issues the older they get and the longer they use, look up the death rate in larger urban areas and you might learn that prisoners can and do die from complications linked to their own life, and not because of anything done to them or not done to them while in custody.

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  4. Pearl Alquileres says:

    With the SO’s track record of executing prisoners (oops, he died) we shouldn’t be overburdened too long.

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  5. Reality Check says:

    Knows the System,

    Well said. It’s a myth that California’s prison are filled with non-violent and minor drug offenders. Once upon a time, maybe. No more. Not for years.

    Worse, the recidivism rate is roughly 2/3rds across the board, for virtually very crime. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

    California needs to pony up the money to humanely house prisoners or face some very unpleasant consequences.

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  6. Knows the system says:

    2 stikes is a joke. I work in the system and have access to info. People don’t go to prison for little things. Any relative who told you they did lied. There are individuals in the Sonoma county jail who have been through “One time only” diversion programs a dozen times, spending hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars. There are individuals with more that 20 “potential” strikes and have never been charge with a single one as a “3 strikes”. By the time someone actually gets to prison for drugs, they are not a “small dealer”.. These are the people who will eventually be involved in drug related homicide or home invasion robbery… Lets home it doesnt end up like the east bay last week with a 3 year old catching a bullet in the head, “accidently” from a former “small time dealer”, looking to move up the food chain. People kill and get killed daily over the business of marijuana. Legalizing only opened up residential users to home invasions after their friends at the “dispensary” gave their address to their “friends” who still deal it illegally. Now I am sure people will post sob stories about a guy caught with a joint and went away for life. Bring it on, I can use some good fiction.

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  7. Robert Jacobs says:

    Right! Some people think crimnals shoul dbe locked up for illegally crossing our border and forging federal documnets. What nonsense. Since we are going to have to live with all the paper hangers and pot head, lets just let out anyone who did stick a gun in someones face??? Wow, look at all the room in prison when you only enforce some laws!!!

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  8. GAJ says:

    While I agree with what you say Bear, you lost me at the end there.

    Three strikes was a mistake and convictions for mere possession of weed, or selling of small amounts, are ridiculous.

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  9. bear says:

    Let’s start with releasing all state prison inmates being held on marijuana crimes.

    Then let’s release all the bad check and other MINOR financial criminals. Let them work and make restitution.

    Then let’s separate the violent, life sentence types from others, and provide some sort of path forward for the others.

    After all, the majority of inmates will be released someday, and we’ll have to live with them somehow.

    Where are the 3-strikes people now? Having a tea party? If the convictions are for seriously bad or violent crimes, I have no issues with you. But if the convictions are for marijauna, or stealing doughnuts, then I think YOU ought to pay for their incarceration at $40K a year.

    A special tax just for you?

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  10. truth in news says:

    So, the state of california can not afford to house and feed its prison population. It is only right to put these CONVICTED FELONS back into the population they victimized. Get ready for your insurance costs to sky rocket as these FELONS start their life of crime back up. Oh, and the cops you decided you didn’t need? You might want to look into a gun purchase to protect yourself now that they are gone!

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  11. Joseph says:

    The private prisons have been described by a habitual offender as resorts, with a great many freedoms not allowed in our state prisons. He learned to be a plumber while incarcerated, although he was a highly skilled lithographic pressman.
    His issue was he owed child support, that he did not want to pay, thus he would get out, earn enough money to put on the prison books, then reoffend, and be sent back to the resort.
    Not the life I would choose, but that is what they call being institutionalized. For some it is the only life they know.
    Privatation is not a solution.

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  12. Brian Brazoot says:

    It would be more cost effective if we plowed down all of the Manzanita bushes in Skyfarm3 and built a nice little re-hab center there.

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  13. Jon Bixler says:

    “Rehab doesn’t work and never has. Evidence, what are the recidivism numbers, 80 or 90 percent? Human behavior is extremely difficult to change. Criminal behavior is almost impossible to change.”

    Correction… rehab doesn’t work HERE. Our incarceration and recidivism rates are the highest on the planet. We imprison more people per capita than China and Russia. We imprison more people today than Soviet Russia did in the 80′s. More than half the people paroled from prison are re-arrested and incarcerated. Half of the prisoners in this State are incarcerated for non-violent crimes. One if five are there for drug offenses. While 123 nations still execute their citizens for capital crimes, only two countries in the world execute juveniles. Us and Iran.

    Is it possible that we’re doing something wrong?

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  14. Skippy says:

    The prisons deteriorated despite billions of tax dollars spent.
    The State Prison Board leviathan has zero motivation to reduce waste and costs, and every reason to expand budgets infinitely.
    If they actually rehabilitated their guests, why would we need so many of them working for us?
    Combine that truth with the featherbedding and bullying of the prison guard Unions, and we have a perfect storm of corruption.
    If there was ever a Big Govt. function that should be privatized, it is our correctional system.
    Operators with a profit motive would do the same work for a fraction of the current cost, and their guests would be motivated to avoid a return visit.
    Once again, capitalism provides the solution to an expensive problem created by Big Govt.

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  15. John G. says:

    I’ve been a law & order guy all my life and yet I have to agree with the US Supreme Court in ordering CA to release roughly 30,000 inmates from the state prisons.

    The CA bureaucrats intentionally refused to correct the inhumane conditions which are prohibited under the US Constitution.

    Overcrowding and inferior medical care are inhumane.

    Recall, also, that correction staff has been caught in recent years in plenty of their own criminal behavior. Smuggled drugs and cell phones more recently, and several years back staff was caught (by FBI) setting up inmate fights between rival gangs.

    I might add that a CA correction officer, off duty, was arrested a few months ago along with his off duty policeman buddy in Southern California (orange county) for abducting a young girl from a shopping mall in broad daylight, kidnapping her, and engaging in attempted rape before she broke free and ran.

    The California “justice system” is essentially broken and it took the US Supreme Court to order at least this one correction.

    Again, I support the US Supreme Court on this issue and I hope that the whining state bureaucrats grow up and just get the job done. Had the state properly managed the inmate numbers in the first place, we would not be at this juncture.

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  16. What Can Be Done says:

    California and Sonoma County are morally and economically bankrupt. Transferring 33,000 state prisoners to the counties is rediculous. Why do the residents of Sonoma County have to put up with more criminals released into the community and that is exactly what will happen.

    Rehab doesn’t work and never has. Evidence, what are the recidivism numbers, 80 or 90 percent?

    Human behavior is extremely difficult to change. Criminal behavior is almost impossible to change. Our administration of justice is crumbling and transferring 33,000 inmates into county jails will fail. Our political leaders in California should have told the courts, thank you for your opinion, but we are going to keep the inmates in our state prisons where they belong.

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  17. Graeme Wellington says:

    The Sheriff’s Office should consider contracting out with Rohnert Park to cover their jail.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

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