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Non Non Non

New guidelines regarding non-serious criminals causing negative effects

Posted: February 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Employees of a Stevenson Ranch cellphone store found it easy to describe the man who ripped a demonstration iPhone off its stand in October and ran out the door.

His multiple, very visible tattoos, ear gauges and his split tongue — which earned him the nickname “Split-Tongue Bandit” — took care of IDing him.

And when investigators caught up with Thomas Joseph Nichols, 25, of Canyon Country, he was arrested on charges of not just second-degree commercial burglary, but also of carrying a concealed weapon, violating conditions of parole, possessing methamphetamine, taking a car without the owner’s consent and receiving stolen property.

Nichols was arrested with a backpack containing a stolen cellphone, jewelry and a Phoenix .25-caliber pistol reportedly taken from a residence.

But he pleaded no contest to just one count: driving a car without the owner’s permission. Other charges were dismissed. And despite the lone remaining charge’s felony status, it’s classified as a non-violent, non-sexual, non-serious crime.

Thus Nichols, despite a prior conviction, joins the classification of “non-non-non” criminals, who can now avoid prison time and serve their sentences in county-run jails under the state’s so-called realignment plan, which moved thousands of “non non non” prisoners from state to county care.

Under new sentencing guidelines, “non-non-non” prisoners are released unconditionally after serving half their sentences, said Lt. Dan Dyer, head of custody operations at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

A “non non non” sentenced to four years is released after completing two years, he said. Nichols is likely to serve just three years of his six-year sentence.

“And they have no tail,” Dyer said of “non non nons.” Once released, he explained, they have no probationary conditions placed on them.

Prison Overcrowding

Responding to a court ruling that California must drastically reduce its overcrowded prison population by some 33,000 inmates over the next two years, Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2011 signed into law Assembly Bill 109 — the public-safety realignment bill — which took effect Oct. 1.

AB 109 shifted responsibility for nonviolent convicted felons and parolee supervision from the state prison system to county resources.

Brown said the move “enable(s) California to close the revolving door of low-level inmates cycling in and out of state prisons.”

“For too long, the state’s prison system has been a revolving door for lower-level offenders and parole violators who are released within months — often before they are even transferred out of a reception center,” Brown said in April 2011

“Cycling these offenders through state prisons wastes money, aggravates crowded conditions, thwarts rehabilitation and impedes local law enforcement supervision.”

Critics alleged then, as they do now, that the move transfers the state’s legal obligations to already-overcrowded local jails and already-overworked local law-enforcement agencies without fully paying for the increased burden.

Community leaders, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Capt. Paul Becker, are on record opposing the “realignment” of prisoners, saying they believe crime will go up with more and more “non non nons” entering the community.

Jail Impact

Lt. Mark McCorkle, then head of custody operations at Pitchess, said in May 2011 that the county’s Castaic jail complex could accept 1,450 new inmates under realignment.

But as of this month, 3,709 new inmates had been transferred from state prisons to Pitchess, Dyer said, increasing the jail’s population to 19,000.

At least 5,778 of those transferred prisoners are “non non nons,” he said.

“We’re feeling the effects of realignment,” he said. “We’ve had to open up closed jails, open up closed housing units, and it has created a burden on us.”


Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, a staunch opponent of realignment, released numbers this month showing 12,762 criminals on probation are actively being supervised by county probation officers — rather than the state probation officers who would have supervised them before realignment.

“The governor’s reckless program shifting criminals from the state to the county is impacting jails and increasing crime — it should be repealed,” Antonovich told The Signal in an email this month.

“The sheriff’s jail capacity is holding steady but the traditional county inmates are serving even less time than prior to Assembly Bill 109.”

Becker said the number of parolees released in the Santa Clarita Valley under the realignment plan stands at more than 100.

“As it impacts us here in the Santa Clarita Valley, 141 post-release ‘non non non’ prisoners were received into the Santa Clarita Valley,” Becker said this month.

“Some have gone off, so currently we have 110 ‘non non nons’ of AB 109 status.”

Becker then pointed to the crime rate and said: “Burglary and theft were crimes that rose last year.” Numbers released earlier this month showed violent crime was down in Los Angeles County in January compared to January 2012, but serious property crimes were up 9.55 percent.

“One in three ‘non non nons’ will re-offend in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Deputy Josh Dubin said this month.

Los Angeles County supervisors have approved an additional probation officer for the Santa Clarita Valley.

The position has yet to be filled, Becker sad, but the new posting will help local deputies keep tabs on “non non non” offenders.


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