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Prison realignment transition has gone ‘pretty smoothly'
Glenn County is coping fairly well with supervising former state inmates on probation in their home county.
Chief Probation Officer Brandon Thompson said things have gone "pretty smoothly" compared to other counties in California.
His comment follows a report from the Chief Probation Officers of California on the first six months of realignment of former state prisoners to counties.
That report showed nine releases between October and December 2011, and seven between January and March, for a total of 16.
The CPOC report also notes five people being sentenced between October and December and 24 between January and March for a total of 29.
Nine were sentenced to county jail only from January to March, while five served split sentences between October and December, and 15 from January to March for a total of 20.
Thompson said the recidivism rate in Glenn County is small compared to the state, where 70 percent lapsed prior to the implementation of realignment through Assembly Bill 109.
"We have not had any felony (lapses) yet," he said. "We have not seen a lot of crimes being committed."
He added there have been some minor lapses like some probationers testing positive for drugs but no major issues.
On the front end, Thompson credits frequent contact with his probation officers for curtailing recidivism.
Glenn County has two probation officers in the field and a third who meets with probationers in person and provides case management, which, he believes prevents bad things from happening. Contacts are frequent, ranging from two to three times a week.
The focus also is to change the way probationers think through cognitive therapy, he said, which changes their thought process to a more productive lifestyle.
Glenn County's Human Resource Agency also runs a CREW Program to help former inmates find jobs and educational opportunities through counseling and teaching prior to being released, he said.
Thompson said Glenn County started the process back in October and fortunately the jail was not overpopulated like some in other Northern California counties.
But his staff and that of Sheriff Larry Jones are working on a plan to manage the jail population in the second year of realignment, Thompson said.
One option is offer a pre-trial release program to those unable to afford bail or who were arrested off the street, he said, based on assessments as to their potential risk to the community if they were released.
Some don't necessarily need to be in jail while awaiting trial and others can be monitored at home with GPS ankle devices.
During 2012-13, Glenn County expects to pick up another 15 state inmates that will be supervised by the county probation system, Thompson said.
"My biggest concern is the November election," he added. Passage of state funding by the voters is crucial because if it does not pass, Glenn County will be "in a world of hurt."
It received $331,000 in state funding to finance realignment in 2011-2012, Thompson said, and is slated to get $662,000 in 2012-2013.
But if that funding goes away, so do the probation officer positions, Thompson said.
That would leave him with 1 and a quarter probation officers while the offender population will remain the same, he said.
On the jail front, Undersheriff Rich Warren said bookings are down in recent months, but the average daily jail population is still running in the mid to high 90s.
The inmates' length of stay in the county jail also is increasing, he said.
In 2009, the average stay was 17 days but in 2012 they are staying an average of 24 days — 7 days longer than they once did.
The state also is making it harder to transfer inmates to state facilities, Warren said, by delaying the transfers.
Parole violators also are spending more time in the Glenn County Jail facility, he said.
Since January, the jail population has ranged from 86 to 106 per day compared to 78 to 92 during the same period in 2011.
Jones said there were 16 inmates in his jail as of last week who normally would have been in state custody.
He also is getting requests from Tehama, Shasta and Butte counties to house inmates for them since their jails are stretched to capacity, Jones said.
However, he does not think it "prudent" to take on neighbors' inmates where Glenn's female pod is near capacity and his staffing is minimal, the sheriff said.
Assaults on inmates and staff are rising dramatically, Jones said, and contraband is being brought into the jail more often with these longer jail stays.
Jones said he would like to expand the jail with Assembly Bill 900 funding and is seeking a needs assessment study from a consultant to see if that can be accomplished.
Another alternative is a work farm for inmates but again Glenn County does not have the money for that at this time, he said.
As for police activity in the cities, Orland police Chief J.C. Tolle said on Wednesday crime is up a bit in Orland, but he cannot say it is because of parolees returning to town.
Car burglaries, driving under the influence and thefts are all on the rise, he said, but that could simply be because it is summer and people are out in the warmer weather.
He added thankfully Orland has not yet seen the more violent crimes happening in Redding and Chico where former parolees are blamed. And Tolle said he hopes Orland does not see that.
Willows police Chief Bill Spears said the impact so far has been moderate on his department.
It has not seen the drastically elevated problems of other jurisdictions, he said, but it is still too early to tell what the impacts will be .
Those who go back into criminal behavior can influence others to do it - especially those in gang culture, Spears said.
And while education and work programs are good, experts say those who engage in criminal activity learn how to manipulate them to their advantage - often to hide their activity, he said.
This does not mean the programs do not work for those motivated to change, Spears said, but only the criminal can decide to give up crime.