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Local officials to get help with probationers

Posted: October 17, 2012 6:49 p.m.
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:49 p.m.

Santa Clarita Valley civic leaders wrestling with realignment and probation issues got some assistance this week following a decision by county supervisors.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to approve hiring about a dozen key probation officers, including two designated to work in the district representing the Santa Clarita Valley.

Supervisors Tuesday approved five “bureau chief” positions — one for each of the five county districts, including District 5, which takes in the Santa Clarita Valley.

They also approved six assistant probation director positions.

Jerry E. Powers, chief probation officer for Los Angeles County, who called Santa Clarita one of the fastest-growing communities in the county, said the added personnel will provide civic leaders with greater access to the Probation Department.

“Being out there (in the Santa Clarita Valley) now will provide civic leaders and your sheriff’s captain more access,” he said. “Now they’ll have a face to put with their questions about probation.”

Since October 2011, when the state began transferring many of its prisoners to county jails and probationers to county supervision, county supervisors have been re-examining resources and looking for ways to better spend money allotted for county jails.

Last week, county supervisors received a one-year update on the process of sending state prisoners to county jails, called “realignment.” The process transfers so-called non-non-nons — inmates whose crimes were non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual in nature — from state to county facilities.

The move was in part a cost-cutting maneuver for the state but also forced by court decisions regarding prison crowding and care. While the state also transferred funds to cover the added county costs, counties throughout California question whether the funds are sufficient and whether compensation will continue to be paid.

Los Angeles County supervisors called on the Probation Department to reallocate its spending so probation officers could deal with the influx of people of probation.

The L.A. County probation system saw an influx of 9,750 transfers, 59 percent of which were classified as “high risk,” according to Powers. Of that 9,750, 990 never showed up to a probation hub as they were directed. Of those, 150 have still yet to be located by the county.

More than $1.4 million in funds earmarked for the new probation positions comes from money already allocated to the Probation Department.

The bureau chief positions come with a cost of $605,000 and a support staff costing $845,000.

“These changes make us more responsive to county areas,” Powers said.

“Up until now, we were centralized with all decisions being made at our Downey headquarters,” he said. “We were slow to respond to outlying areas.

“Areas such as Palmdale and Santa Clarita are tailor-made for this decision.”




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