South LA Reintegration Council Calls for Increased Funding for Community-Based Prison Realignment Support Services
The past 40 years has witnessed the prison population in California exploding due in part to the so-called “War on Drugs.” Communities of color are targeted, resulting in harsher sentences even as crime rates have been decreasing for the past 10 years. The California prison system is under federal decree because of poor health care services to inmates and overcrowding. California also has the highest recidivism rate in the country, a major contributor to mass incarceration.
In an effort to comply with the Federal judicial order, the state passed AB 109 Prison Realignment, legislation that is the most sweeping criminal justice reform initiative in the history of California. Taking effect on October 1, 2011, it is a mandate for the counties to accept low-level non-serious, non-violent, non sex-related prisoners.
The South LA Reintegration Council (SLARC) is the coming together of faith, civil rights and community-based leaders and organizations with a goal of ending mass incarceration in Los Angeles, which has the largest municipal jail population in the world. The key to ending mass incarceration, we believe, is providing rehabilitative services to the formerly incarcerated.
The 2011-2012 LA County budget allocated a small percentage of its total state realignment block grant funding to community and faith-based organizations that serve the formerly incarcerated. The majority of realignment funding goes to law enforcement. Unlike other major legislation, there was no preliminary impact study that evaluated the implications this legislation will have on local counties, which will receive the inmates and probationers affected by this legislation. Studies conclude that the one of the main contributors to reducing recidivism are community-based support services for the formerly incarcerated.
Governor Jerry Brown has a $3.6 million surplus from Prop 30, which guaranteed future funding for AB 109. Much of this money was raised from local unions and state legislators. Probation Department Chief Jerry Powers stated in his March 2013 monthly report to the LA County Board of Supervisors that there is a $10 million surplus.
“I know it (realignment) puts a strain on the local system, particularly the jail, but it’s also putting people where they can get the most help,” said Brian Davis, Yuba County Public Defender.
“And, hopefully, it keeps many of the people from re-offending,” Davis said.