Transcript: Part IV of the Public Policy Institute of California panel on the effects of the public safety realignment – June 28, 2013

Part IV: Partial transcript of the Public Policy Institute of California panel on the effects of the public safety realignment in California on June 28, 2013: David Lesher, Director of Government Affairs at PPIC:

…What do you think you need from the state to make this work in Stanislaus County?

Adam Christianson, Sheriff of Stanislaus County and Vice President of the California State Sheriffs’ Association:

Well, I’m pleased to hear the Senator say that she agrees with us. That’s great. You know, the state truly needs to be a partner in this, not a dictator in this. Unfunded mandates do nothing for us.

And again, when you’re looking at this type of paradigm shift, what you really want to do is have all the partners and stakeholders come together and say, “Okay, this is where we’re at. Give us some time to manage this – get to a manageable level, and then what adjustments do we need to make.”

So that’s really, in my mind, the state’s role is more of a partnership than anything else.

I want to digress just for a moment back to a comment the Senator made about programming. And of course, I can’t speak for 58 counties. But prior to Realignment, Stanislaus County was actively engaged and involved in programming. We’ve had partnerships – strong partnerships – with many community-based organizations – service, civic, charitable, faith-based, business, education, agriculture, you name it – in providing literacy services, education, helping people graduate and get GEDs. We’ve got a very robust vocational training program with Modesto city schools that teaches a welding trade, a welding vocational program, and then we partner with our business partners to help people find jobs.

So we’ve always been engaged and involved in efforts to reduce recidivism because we operate – Stanislaus County operates under a federal consent decree. I’m one of those counties that’s capped. We had a local jail bed capacity problem before Realignment came along. So now, with a jail that was built in the ’50s, it was never designed back then to do with it what we’re doing today. It wasn’t designed with programming in mind.

Fortunately, we were able to get a newer facility in 1992 and again now prospectively we’re looking at building it public safety infrastructure. But our jail is jail. And so that’s a little bit of a dynamic. But without those community-based organizations, without that ability to have access to educational, vocational, rehabilitative opportunities, the problem just exacerbates itself, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.

As an example in simple numbers: If you get sentenced to 365 days in jail right now today in Stanislaus County, under Realignment you’re going to get 50% of that off, including work time credits, so you’re down to 180. And because of our ADP, we provide another 70% credit on top of that, so you’re going to do 54 days. Now, we defer a lot of people to alternative work programs, alternatives to incarceration but more importantly, we’re not just focused on sentencing inmates.

A lot of our efforts and partnerships are focused on people who are in custody, pre-trial detainees, because we want them to have the same access to services even before they finish their journey through the criminal justice system, giving them opportunities to break cycles of addiction and violence. So our focus is ADP-wide, not just sentence inmates in our custody.

Because managing jails and managing ADP is an everyday, all-day, 24-hour a day process, from managing your population cap to managing classification of inmate to ensure the safety and security of your facilities, to making sure that conditions of confinement – we’re ahead of that because of the lawsuits that follow from this realigned population, which I’m all about mitigating risks and liability. Adequate and proper inmate medical and mental health care.

We have a tremendous partnership with our behavioral health and recovery resources teams, with the courts. Even with the local medical center, Doctors Medical Center, who stepped up to the plate and said, “Bring them to us.” Even though the county has a contract because the county closed its county health facility or medical facility years ago, and yes Doctors Medical Center has a contract for indigent health care. The CEO went one step further and said, “For law enforcement encountering mentally ill offenders, bring them to us.” It’s tremendous. If you build those kind of community partnerships, this will be successful.

In the discussions that I’ve had about…what do we need to do to be successful, really it’s about adequate sustainable funding; it’s about capacity, which means facilities locally and programming space; it’s about collaboration and partnerships; it’s about flexibility and a willingness to amend what we’ve already started.

And it’s certainly about accountability and consequence because we’ve also discovered that in order for people to be successful in these programs, there has to be some level of accountability and consequence. They’re not going to want to participate and be successful just because they choose to do it. You don’t see that very often. There’s no really will to break cycles of addiction, violence. You have to have some level of accountability and consequence. …

I think that the state is a great partner. Certainly the state sheriffs’ have had an excellent relationship with the Governor and his staff, and we’ll make this thing work. But again, too soon to tell and we really have to have flexibility locally in partnership with our probation chiefs and the DA and our community-based organizations and everybody that we work with on the CCP without direct involvement, mandates, legislate, regulate. We really need the time to let this thing come together and try to find what works and what doesn’t. And then share with everybody else our successes and our failures so that everybody else learns from our experience.


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