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Michael Antonovich: Realignment : a dangerous ruse

Posted: May 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following column was written in response to a news story reporting that Gov. Jerry Brown, after touring California counties to determine effects of prisoner realignment, declared, “I can report ... that realignment is working.”

Gov. Jerry Brown’s failure to use his authority to contract with in-state and out-of-state detention facilities to reduce the number of state prisoners when the federal court ordered the reduction of prison overcrowding resulted in his irresponsible and dangerous solution to dump future felons and parolees on the 58 counties through his realignment program, AB 109.

Just in Los Angeles County, as of March 28, more than 20,469 offenders have been sentenced to county jail instead of state prison, and more than 20,346 offenders have been shifted to probation supervision. Among these, 27,332 have been re-arrested, with some offenders being re-arrested multiple times.

Of those sent to county jail, more than 530 inmates have been sentenced to jail terms of five years or more, 43 for more than a decade and one for 42 years.

In a deliberate sleight-of–hand, the governor promised that inmates transferred to county responsibility would be non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual offenders.

But today, more than 60 percent of those under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Probation Department are high-risk and very-high-risk offenders; less than 2 percent are low-risk.

What is shocking is that most of these felons have been convicted of crimes that were plea-bargained down from more serious charges.

With California’s 70 percent recidivism rate, Gov. Brown uses smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that, under realignment, repeat offenders are continuously cycling through the state’s criminal justice system and ending up in local jails.

With little effective scrutiny from the media to date, Los Angeles County residents are unaware of the increased risk, liability, social and fiscal responsibilities of a bigger and more dangerous criminal population — with a strong gang component — assumed by the county.

Realignment impacts public safety. The Sheriff’s Department is now releasing into the community more offenders from county jail who have served no time to as little as 20 percent of their sentences to accommodate more than 20,000 offenders who would have previously gone to state prison.

Unlike state prisons — designed for long-term confinement — county jails are intended as detention centers for individuals awaiting trial, transfer, or completion of short-term sentences.

Further compounding the problem are the never-ending efforts by the ACLU, which I often refer to as the “Atheist Criminal Liberties Union,” and other pro-criminal groups to destabilize the public safety system by calling to defund jails and prisons and utilize phony and ineffective enforcement tools such as GPS monitoring and ankle bracelets.
Ankle bracelets do not prevent crime. In fact, there are dozens of examples in which offenders committed serious and violent crimes while equipped with GPS tracking devices or tampered with them to avoid monitoring.

Recently, two transient parolees were arrested and charged with the rape and murder of four Orange County women while wearing ankle bracelets.

Finally, mental health treatment, substance abuse counseling and other similar services are critically important. But they should be provided in addition to and during — not in lieu of — incarceration.

Public safety must be our top priority. Dangerous criminals belong in public and private prisons, not on the streets.

New and existing cost-effective detention facilities should be maximized to hold criminals accountable, provide opportunities for rehabilitation, and protect public safety.

Michael D. Antonovich is Los Angeles County Supervisor for the Fifth District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.



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