Saturday, July 4, 2015

California's prison realignment a shell game

The Marshall Project has shed light on what California officials call “realignment” — a sweeping initiative to reduce the overcrowding of state prisons by turning over responsibility for non-violent offenders to the counties from which they came.
Realignment was forced on California officials were ordered to reduced overcrowded state prisons. The policy, which has helped state prisons shed tens of thousands of inmates, is also fueling a seemingly contradictory effort to re-incarcerate many of them in county jails.
Across the state, county officials are laying claim to billions in state funding to refurbish old jails and build new ones. The remarkable boom in jail construction casts a long shadow over a central promise of prison downsizing: that the policy would encourage counties to invest in the types of stabilizing services that might end the cycle of incarceration.
But it seems the spirit of reform was overtaken by California’s urgent need to get support from counties as it scrambled to meet court-ordered prison population goals. To ease the process, the state ponied up billions of dollars and gave local officials carte blanche on how to spend their share.
So far the lion’s share of the money has paid for shoring up enforcement, while re-entry services and alternatives to incarceration are getting short shrift.
California's much lauded realignment is a shell game.  The policy has not reduced mass incarceration it has merely shifted those inmates to local jails instead of state prisons.
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