The Governor feels their pain.
Jails may be overcrowded and funding from the state may be suspect.
But yes, in two weeks thousands of state prison inmates will be headed their way, Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged before a gathering of sheriffs, probation officers and county supervisors Wednesday morning at the convention center in Sacramento.
"It is a bold step, it is long overdue” the Brown told the gathering. “But the goal is public safety, living within our means and those who are closest to the problem can provide the most common sense response.”
This was a pep talk prior to the implementation of his “realignment” plan which will eventually send thousands of non-violent state offenders to local jurisdictions.
AB 109, which Brown signed into law, is an effort to deal with overcrowding in the state prison system without sending violent felons out on the street.
This wasn’t a budget issue so much as the fallout from a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which found that prison overcrowding was violating inmates' right to fundamental health care.
Starting on October low-level inmates will be sent to county probation departments and to local jails. That number will continue each month until the state has reduced its prison population by about 30- to 40,000 inmates.
Some sheriffs have asked for a delay. All have asked for a guarantee that they will be given enough funding to handle the new workload.
“Don’t worry about the money," Brown said. "We will get it to you one way or another.”
While acknowledging that public safety is the state’s primary obligation, it is clear the prison issue is a frustration for Brown.
So too is the federal court. The state has entered into 19 “consent decrees’ to deal with issues in the prison system. The medical treatment issue alone has cost the state over a billion dollars.
“They get their colonoscopy, psychoanalytic interviews, they get their teeth looked at," Brown said. "The goal has been not to try to change the lives of the criminal but to make sure they are the healthiest darn criminals in the world. That they live longer, they run faster and they shoot straighter.”
The sheriffs got a big kick out of that.
But the governor also argued that there have been scores of studies and reports recommending the state do what has now been mandated by the court.
Violent inmates are one thing, but those convicted of non-sexual, non-violent and non serious crimes probably should be placed closer to the neighborhoods from where they came.
For Brown it is a push toward government the way he lived it in his first term when jail and prison populations were equal.
The buses start pulling out October 1st.