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Tuesday, Sep 03 2013 06:00 AM

Cities call for changes in AB 109 administration

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This private prison in California City, owned by Corrections Corporation of America, could house inmates with supervision by state corrections employees as part of a plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce the need to release more prisoners. Photo by Emily Brunett/Tehachapi News

Assembly Bill 109, otherwise known as "prison realignment," has impacted communities like Tehachapi in a very negative way, according to Councilman and retired corrections professional Ed Grimes.

At the City Council meeting Aug. 19, Grimes said the statistics he acquired from the Tehachapi Police Department report around 9,000 incidents between January and August 2012, and more than 18,000 through the same eight months in 2013.

"The only common demoninator I can put my finger on is realignment," he said.

In a later interview, Grimes said that population growth may play a small factor, but not enough to account for the doubling of incident reports.

"Incidents" constitute any police call, Grimes said. Examples include health and safety checks, shots fired calls, burglary reports and trespassing.

Police Chief Jeff Kermode presented the City Council with a recommendation to support the League of California Cities' proposed resolution regarding prison realignment.

"Since [realignment took effect in October 2011], the impacts of realignment have been found in every community, large and small, throughout the state," Kermode said. "The impacts have also been felt by local and county law enforcement agencies, particularly here in Kern County."

Grimes sits on the league's Public Safety Committee.

The league will be petitioning Governor Jerry Brown for a sit-down to discuss issues like supplying more adequate funding for local law enforcement and distributing it more fairly, changing the criteria for which inmates to release and establishing an effective state-wide data sharing system for law enforcement agents to effectively track offenders.

Grimes said Wednesday he anticipated the city would send a letter of support to the league by Friday. According to Kermode's presentation, the League of California Cities will meet Sept. 20 to vote on this proposed resolution.

Grimes said larger counties got a larger share of the funding provided by the state, leaving counties like Kern the short end of the stick.

"We're just asking for more fairness in the issue," he said. "But it's not just the money situation. As more and more inmates are released or given to counties or cities, we don't have the resources. It appears [the governor] shifted his problem to us."

In a press release dated Aug. 27, the office of Gov. Jerry Brown outlined his plan to comply with a federal court order to limit the state prison capacity without additional releases. The legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to lease in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, as well as allocate $315 million toward the plan's implementation.

Joining the governor in a show of support was the League of California Cities, the release stated, as well as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, among other legislative officials and organizations.

State inmates to Cal City?

Following the governor's unveiling of the proposal, Associated Press reporter Don Thompson explained in an article that the plan includes "renting an entire 2,300-bed private prison in Kern County from Corrections Corp. of America and staffing it with guards employed by the state."

The private prison referred to is the California City Correctional Center in California City. Due to early deadlines from the Labor Day holiday, the correctional center could not be reached for comment by the Tehachapi News prior to publication.

Grimes expressed chagrin that certain offenders who are allowed to go free because of AB 109 regulations.

"Drugs and property crimes are not considered serious enough to put them in prison," he said. "We're making it easier for criminals because they're not doing the time...[Prison] is not a deterrent any more."

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