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Local Assemblyman Asking for Plan to Reduce Prison Population

Anthony Portantino's legislation would require the state department of corrections to figure out how to reduce prisoner recidivism rates by 20 percent within the next four years

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) wants the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to establish goals that will halt the revolving door of inmates heading back to prison.

Portantino introduced AB 219 because he wants to shift the prison debate from a one-dimensional early release and sentencing reform to holding the state accountable for a lower recidivism rate.

“We’re asking the department to come up with a game plan – a sound, public policy planned approach to lower the number of people returning to prison and lower the prison population and crime rate,’’ Portantino said.

The bill, AB 219, would require the CDCR to establish goals to cut California’s recidivism rates by 20 percent within the next four years, and 40 percent by 2020. The department would also be mandated to report and verify those rates, Portantino explained, noting California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. Two-thirds of California offenders return to prison within three years.

According to Portantino’s figures, the state spends 7.6 percent of the general fund on warehousing prisoners and overseeing parolees  - that amounts to $10 billion annually. It makes sense, then, to work toward reducing the number of parolees sent back to prison, as that would cut a considerable chunk of money from the prison system, he said.

His figures further show that 456 out of every 100,000 people are behind bars in California, with the average cost to the state per prisoner running $49,000 per year. 

“State agencies offer goals to reduce global warming and increase renewable energy use. We’re asking the department to establish goals that will lower the recidivism rate,’’ Portantio said.

 Capt. David Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is always trying to find ways to improve safety, cut crime, and reduce recidivism. 

“It appears that Assembly Member Portantino’s bill may address all three areas.  We will have to wait and monitor to see if his goal is achieved,’’ he said.

Darryl Glass February 07, 2011 at 09:16 PM
I think you can start by reviewing cases for those who have been convicted of 3 strikes but none of their crimes were never violent. This can be done on a case by case basis and to see if they have a stable/strong family support when released. Non-violent criminals should be able to serve in Armed Forces or other government(state or federal) so that they can build a sense of pride and hopefully reduce recidivism. Also, have passionate volunteers to teach and train those scheduled for release in various fields and have a program in place to help them once they are out. Nevertheless, these issues are a long thought out process but something must be done. It can save the state of Ca money and lead the way for the nation to follow.
Max Harper February 08, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Totally rediculous to think a mere order will make things work the way he has it imagined. We spend billions to staff the prisons with psychologists, psychiatrists, psyche techs, psyche- medication, education, trade courses and there are also clergy for every religion known. The real question is, "how do you make someone think right? If they don't want to, you can't make them. If you want them to think right you need to get to them before gangs and drugs do ...get to them before they are 5 years old.
Chris Colburn February 08, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Let me get this straight. A term-limited State Assemblyman wants to release criminals and take away your right to defend yourself with a handgun? How can this possibly go wrong?!?
Jenny Wood February 08, 2011 at 05:39 PM
I agree with much of what Darryl says. I also think that true rehabilitation needs to happen and funds should be allocated for it. For instance, all sex offenders are lumped together as if they are all hardened criminals - with tough sentences and virtually no chance to prove they are rehabilitated - regardless of the actual level of the crime and their mental state. Programs designed to help offenders prove themselves should be instituted and these folks monitored after paroled. If they are rehabilitated and have a good family and friend network that will help them stay on the straight and narrow, then you will have less recidivism.
Claire Phillips February 08, 2011 at 06:43 PM
The Counties could stop sentencing career criminals to prison who have absolutely no desire to function within the laws of society and prefer prison to their own reality. Or, you could direct the Parole Department to ignore all violations and criminal behavior until they are eventually arrested for a new crime, with new victims, and sentenced to a new prison term. However, once they are arrested for a new crime, don't forget to blame the Parole Agent in the media for failing to send them back to prison when they had the opportunity.
Claire Phillips February 08, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Who believes that turning over the supervision of parolees to the the local law enforcement agencies will result in lower recidivism rates? Not anybody inside law enforcement, that is for sure. Police and Sheriff officials routinely contact parole to obtain parole holds for the most minor of reasons, including a parolee with a smart mouth or to squeeze them for info on another case. Give the Police and Sheriff's Department the power to place a no-bail hold on a parolee, and watch the jail/prison population explode. Why do you think Sheriff Baca is supporting such a transfer of responsibility? It's definitely not the money - this realignment will further drain the County coffers. He favors this proposal as a way to increase the leverage and power of local law enforcement to lock-up and "work" parolees to their benefit. Neither is in the Rehabilitation business, nor should they be.
Darryl Glass February 08, 2011 at 09:30 PM
True Mr.Harper, you have to start young. It begins with the heart knowing the difference between good/evil & right and wrong. You have career criminals who will never change, so you can't do much about that. What Prison System can do is try and differentiate the truly mentally ill and sure they commited crimes and should pay but they can be transferred to local or state or other states in guarded mental facilities to receive the proper care. (Your quote) The real question is, "how do you make someone think right? If they don't want to, you can't make them. (SO TRUE). And in these bad economic times, what is a person with a felony who can't get a job, going to do...resort back to crime and right back in jail/prison.
Darryl Glass February 08, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Thank you, I know of several instances where this has happened and therefore can speak on it. These persons who did crimes and many were their first time in jail/prison but once they got out and had the support of family/friends, even getting jobs or starting their own legit business have not went back to jail/prison. I appreciate your insight also Jenny.
Darryl Glass February 08, 2011 at 09:41 PM
I agree Local Law Enforcement has their own issues, budget cuts, wayward cops, overworked cops..Their jobs are hard enough as it is. There are those who care and try to help who they can while they are in jail, meaning the correctional officers..but as you say, they are not in the Rehabilitation business. That is up to every state, not just California to have some kind of system in place and to stick to it. I also believe you can't just lock everyone up all the time(depending on the crime), sure murders and sex offenders but minor crimes, send them off to a Rehabilition place, sorta of like jail but with more freedom and that will be like their 2nd chance or WAKE UP CALL...While the justice system forever gives breaks to celebrites or those will money to afford a good lawyer. I appreciate your insight as well Claire.
Horsewoman February 09, 2011 at 07:03 PM
How many more reports and plans do they need? There are a stack of prison plans and reports done by very qualified and professional people gathering dust on the shelves of Sacramento. THEY DO NOTHING. TALK, TALK, TALK, create ANOTHER COMMISSION, STUDY, STUDY, TALK, TALK. Nothing ever changes. The more prisoners the stronger the CCPOA and Law Enforcement becomes. They have no desire to fix whats broken. Job security is what they care about and reducing prisoner numbers reduces jobs. Read the reports at the bottom of this article. http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/?q=node/2349
Malibu1369 February 10, 2011 at 12:18 AM
In 2005 the then governator changed the California Department of Corrections to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, adding an exemplary system of educational options to reduce recidivism. The plan was never wholly put into effect and has since totally fallen by the wayside because the CDCR redirected funds to Correctional Staff salaries. This good legislator should not try to re-invent the wheel, just to break the CDCR's legacy of doing whatever the heck they want regardless of the mandate given them by the Legislature, Justice or Executive department. Research, it would make this all more understandable...brains, use them...
yeahian February 10, 2011 at 11:01 PM
Capt. David Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is always trying to find ways to improve safety, cut crime, and reduce recidivism. How, and besides trying what are they doing? Awesome plan he's got my vote.(well I don't because you have no right to complain if you do. But for him maybe I will)
parole agent February 12, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Reducing the recidivism rate by 20 percent within the next four years is easy. I could put a plan together that would reduce the rate by 25 percent within the next two years. Part of the plan would cover the use of global positioning system technology (GPS), educational programs, and a change to parole operations. First, the use of GPS in parole is only used on sex offenders and some gang members. Per California Penal Code sections 3010 through 3010.9, “CDCR can utilize continuous electronic monitoring to monitor the whereabouts of persons on parole.” I would install a GPS unit on every parolee. I would then make it known that the movement and location of every parolee would be monitored 24 hours a day by parole agents and local law enforcement. This would eliminate parolees from hanging out in known gang and drug areas. It would also create some concerns to others who are not on parole from having a parolee at their place of business or residence if they are doing anything illegal. Law enforcement would be able to trace a high number of parolees that frequent a business or location.
parole agent February 12, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Next, I would make employment or attending an educational program mandatory. Right now, parolees do not have to work or go to school. I would make it part of the parole conditions that a parolee must work or attend an educational program at least 4 hours a day.
parole agent February 12, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Last, I would overhaul the parole division. The parole division’s five-year road map is failing. Adding to the above, I would eliminate the parole agent point system, make the agents 24-hour peace officers, and expand the daily operations to 24 hours a day. Like all other real law enforcement agencies, I would require shift work around the clock. Each office would have a war room in which agents are assigned to monitor the movement and location of every parolee in their district 24 hours a day. If a parolee cut off his/her GPS unit, agents along with local law enforcement can respond to the last known area immediately.
Horsewoman February 12, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Parole agent. Can you really imagine having 500,000 people or more on GPS? Every year the prison system releases well over 100,000 inmates. If they are on parole for 3-5 years that adds up. GPS is also expensive. They are having trouble paying for the sex offender GPS services. No one wants to pay. Unless these guys have some services when they get out, nothing will work. 80% of prison inmates are drug offenders. Prison doesn't cure addiction as I am sure you know. They can't get jobs because of background checks and the lack of jobs at this time plus no one will rent to them and going to school costs money. They must start rehabilitating rather than incarcerating if the recidivism rate is ever to drop. Sentencing reform is also a must. Our sentences are out of control. You have young people serving decades in prison for offenses that didn't even injure anyone because of enhancement laws that the public was dooped into supporting by professional campaigning politicians. The tough on crime soap box has always works because of the gullable tax payer. Hopefully they are beginning to see the error of their ways. It is very easy to get these tough on crime laws on the books and next to impossible to recind them without being accused of being soft on crime. But that is what it will take.
parole agent February 13, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Horsewoman. I will answer your comments in short sentences. Please go to cdcr.ca.gov and check the numbers. There are usually 123,000 felons on parole each year. There are only 170,000 felons locked up each year. GPS is cheaper than incarceration. We are not having any problems paying for sex offenders on GPS. We only run into problems (sometimes) with services for sex offenders and some gang members. The average parolee/inmate has a fourth grade education. We have free GED classes and free trade school training, but we cannot force parolees to attend. We have a lot of free services in the community that the parolees do not want to take advantage of. Remember, rehabilitation starts with the individual. I do agree with you on sentencing reform, the politicians, the soapbox, and tough crime laws. Overall, I would rather place a drug offender who just used drugs in a program and on GPS than send them back to prison on a parole violation. It would be cheaper to monitor them on GPS.
Horsewoman February 13, 2011 at 05:05 PM
parole agent. I agree with you on most. Although I think if you try to put that many people on GPS it will be expensive. There would be a whole new agency created along with the necessary staffing and that is where the cost is. Everyday prisons release 400 to 600 inmates on parole. Most paroles are 3 years are they not? That is alot of parolees to watch. I sympathize with your work load. You always hear about the services available to parolees, but they are NOT real. The first things that get cut with economies like we have are those things. 10% of the prison population gets any rehabilitation or education in prison and that was before the bad economy. I bet it's closer to ZERO now. The studies that I posted along with the LAO's findings support what I am saying. I don't really blame CDCr for all this. It is our system of laws. We keep cramming people into prisons without any substantial rehabilitative programming. The people of California voted NOT TO REHABLITATE many years back. They wanted punishment only because of polititians. Well, you reap what you sew. That is why we are where we are. The recidivism rate at 70% over 3 years. I believe recidivisim rates were in the 30% range back in the 80's when all these changes took place (tough on crime laws began). When people have no hope, they go back to the only way they know to survive. If it's crime, it's crime. They figure if they go back to prison at least they eat. Sad as it is, thats how it is.
parole agent February 14, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Thanks Horsewoman for your feedback. It appears that you really do know a little about corrections. All of the rehabilitation and education did get cut. The people of CA did vote not to REHABILITATE. And I do have some parolees that rather stay in than to come out. Our caseloads are high and I’m glad you don’t blame the line staff. But as an agent, it would be easier to supervise my cases if I knew where they were at all times. It would save us a lot of time and money if we did not have to go back and forward to a residence looking for a parolee. Again, the local Assemblyman was asking for a plan to reduce prison population and recidivism. Releasing all low and mid offenders on GPS would reduce the population and recidivism by 25-40% the first two years. GPS is cheaper than prison. As many inmates that are released, it is as many parolees that are discharged from parole or sent back on a new case. And the programs in the community are real. Check the cdcr web site and look up community resources. I do a lot of referrals, and some parolees do take advantage. I will do some checking and get the total cost to supervise a parolee on GPS. I know for a fact that it is cheaper than prison and sending someone back on a violation.
Dinah Kanser February 14, 2011 at 05:41 AM
I usually disagree with everything Portantino stands for, but he may be on to something here. At least someone is at least exploring options. There are many non-violent persons in a prison environment which serves no purpose to either the convicted or to the community. Persons convicted of these types of offenses should be able to be 'released' using modern technology to track them and control their behavior. Prisons should house only violent offenders who pose a threat to the community or themselves. I hope this time Portantino does lots of research and consults with a good number of qualified persons with experience in these matters before proposing any new sweeping reforms.
Horsewoman February 14, 2011 at 03:55 PM
I agree Dinah. Prison should be for the violent. Not everyone released from our prisons should be on parole! We are one of the only states that use parole on every single inmate. Most states only supervise certain identified groups of inmates. Violent or Sex offenders mostly. Parole agent. I enjoy speaking with someone who knows what you know about the system. Yes I am sure it is cheaper to GPS rather than prison ant $47,000 per inmate per year, and that is regular inmates, not those that have special requirements, such as Death Row inmates, Terminally ill, incapacitated inmates or mentally ill inmates that run into millions each. There is alot of room for improvement. But it is so hard to get things done. They have passed laws to release Terminally ill and incapacitated inmates, but it literally takes almost and act of Congress to do it. I think you can count them on one hand. Until Californians start waking up to the monster that the Justice system in California has become, it won't change. They dont really understand the BILLION that are poored into Corrections and Courts every year. They don't attach a price tag to all these tough on crime, far too punitive sentences that we have here. SENTENCING REFORM MUST COME FIRST. There are so many reports out that that state the obvious problems and give a thorough road map to fixing the system. What Mr. Portantino is doing is commendable but it has already been done.
Horsewoman February 14, 2011 at 04:16 PM
The US Supreme will be ruling on the order handed down by a panel of Federal Judges that demands that CA reduce the prison population in June of 2011. It has many of the strategies in it if CA would just do it and stop litigating and stonewalling every opportunity it has to get something done. California Legislators and Governors have done nothing but waste time and money avoiding the inevitable. The medical and mental health of our prisons is already in Receivership. They have done some work on parole and are not sending guys back for technicals at this point, which is a move in the right direction. But they need services. I have talked to people about the services offered on CDCr's webpage, but those services are mostly myth. I could go on forever. Another BIG issue is how we put people in prisons. DA's that lie, intimidate and coerce young people into prison must be personally held accountable. They overcharge for every crime and threaten life in prison for crimes that should never have even been charged. They can say and do anything to get you to plead out. Witnesses are threatened by law enforcement if they testify. It's crazy what goes on. People think they have rights....That's laughable. Try finding a civil rights attorney to represent you. Governor Swartzy shot down legislation to record all interrogations that would certainly have cut down the nonsense. Why? Because next to the teachers unions, Corrections contributes the most $$ for campaigns.
parole agent February 14, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Horsewoman, I strongly agree with you and Dinah. I glad you pointed out the Legislators and the Governors. It gets frustrating when someone blames an agent (me) for all the problems within parole. CDCR did take one good step and implemented Non-Revocable Parole (NRP). All low level offenders released from prison, who meet the requirements, are on non-supervised parole. A parole agent cannot violate them. And I agree, there is a lot more we can do. Instead of asking the community, we rely on special interest groups backed by the unions. I’m sorry that you believe the services in the community are a myth. Can you point some out and I will investigate them and reply. We really need help from the community to make a change in the lives of parolees.
Chris Colburn February 16, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Just curious about Non-Revocable Parole here... what's the incentive to not re-offend if your parole cannot be violated? What do they consider low-level offenders? What percentage of these NRPs re-offend? I was under the impression that parole was a program aimed at reducing recidivism? You comply with parole terms or go back to prison. Why don't parolees get that? Simple, they get out of prison and go back to their old ways. It's not because there are no jobs, it is because crime is easy and profitable. Why work for $8-10 an hour, when I can poison our streets by selling drugs for $10K a week? Maybe rehabilitation is the answer, but I doubt it. No amount of rehabilitation will change a person who is intent on a life of crime. Career offenders are just that, CAREER offenders. It's their means of survival. I am with you on the GPS tracking. It is cheaper than housing prisoners. But, who decides who qualifies as low-level? The general public should have access to it as well. I'd like to know when a felon is in my neighborhood, violent or not.
Darryl Glass February 16, 2011 at 07:29 PM
I like your ideas, parole agent. I also have a friend who is a Parole Agent...I think 6 -8 hours would be great also...as they saying goes, Idle hands are the devil's workshop...and frankly speaking, some are just career criminals and unless they have Divine Intervention in their lives, they aren't going to change in anyway shape or form.. I hope Mr.Portantino listen to your suggestions.
parole agent February 18, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Hey Christopher, to be eligible for NRP an inmate or parolee cannot have any Violent or Serious Felony convictions, cannot be a Validated Prison Gang Member or Associate (excludes street gang members), cannot be a Sex Offender, and cannot have a High Risk Score that indicates a high risk to re-offend. Also, cannot have any serious discipline issues while in custody. Please read the provisions in CA Penal Code section 3000.03 for further info. Actually, parole is a program that allows an inmate out early so he/she can reintegrate back into society while serving the rest of their term on the streets.

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