The California Prison System And The Federal Government, Friends Or Foes?

Submitted By Caleb-Roberts
Words: 1702
Pages: 7

Name: Caleb Roberts
Section: POLS 402 M, W, F
Date: March 13, 2015
Term Paper: Criminal Justice The California Prison System and the Federal Government, Friends or Foes? Overcrowded and inhumane conditions at California’s state prisons, are a subject that I am all too well familiar with. I worked for the California Department of Corrections (CDC), as a Correctional Officer (C/O) for seven years. In that time I experienced the conditions of the state’s prison system go from bad to worse. Both staff and inmates were forced to survive in conditions less than humane. The state was fully aware that the overcrowded conditions were a violations of human rights and the 8th amendment, but nothing was done by the Governor. Finally the inmates had enough and filed a class action lawsuit against the state citing cruel and unusual punishment (8th amendment). For years the state fought this case. Finally the courts ruled that the state of California and C.D.C. were in violation and ordered to reduce their prison inmate population. The state appealed the decision immediately. The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court. In 2011, the case of Brown v. Plata, the United States Supreme Court holding that a court-mandated population limit was necessary to remedy a violation of prisoners’ Eighth Amendment constitutional rights by a majority opinion 5 to 4. In the decision affirmed a decision by a three judge panel of the United States District Court for the Eastern and Northern Districts of California which had ordered California to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity within two years. (Brown) With this decision, the U.S. Supreme Court, forced not only the state of California to make changes, but indirectly the counties to do so as well. Counties had to make changes to their county jails and probation departments. Not only the counties, but cities, towns, and townships will experience changes from the impact the ruling. Their fate was determined with impacted it had on the state of California. California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, had a solution to reduce prison overcrowding, it was realignment. In 2011 Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, commonly referred to as “prison realignment,” which shifted to counties the responsibility for monitoring, tracking, and incarcerating lower-level offenders previously bound for state prison. In brief, AB 109 (and AB 117, a companion bill) altered both sentencing and post-prison supervision for “non-serious, non-violent, non-sex” offenders. This new legislation, has three major groups that are affected by realignment. First, felony offenders who have never been convicted of a “serious” or “violent” crime or an aggravated white collar crime and are not required to register as sex offenders, will now serve their sentences in local custody. Second, released prisoners whose current commitment offense qualifies them as non-violent offender, are diverted to the supervision of county probation departments under “Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS).” Third, if persons on PRCS violate the technical conditions of their supervision (rather than committing a new crime), they can no longer be returned to State prison but must be placed in local (county) jail or community alternatives, including house arrest, drug treatment, or flash incarceration. (Petersilia) With AB 109, the counties in California have to make a variety of changes to their county jails and probation departments. These changes that the counties must implement, will surely have a direct effect on the local communities they serve. The challenge will be having to implement policies without any impact reports or existing procedures already in place. Most importantly, these new policies will be critical to the issue of public safety and budget concerns for the counties. In Butte County, one impact report, in regards to AB 109 and its impact on the county was compiled