Gov. Jerry Brown has been quietly visiting California counties since the start of the year to see how they are faring under his 3-year-old realignment law that dramatically altered the state’s criminal justice system by increasing the burden on local governments.
He gave his verdict recently to a gathering of the state’s major law enforcement organizations: “I can report … that realignment is working.”
Interviews with some of the local officials the governor has met with reveal a more nuanced picture.
Sheriffs, county supervisors and police chiefs told The Associated Press that they had pressed the governor for more money as they deal with a crush of additional inmates. They say the money is needed for new jail cells, inmate mental health counseling, and education and rehabilitation programs, among other issues.
Brown did not visit the San Luis Obispo County Jail as part of his outreach recently, but county Sheriff Ian Parkinson said he has told the governor previously about the need for additional funding.
Parkinson and Brown also discussed mental health issues in the jail system, and the governor said he is working on expanding the number of beds for mental health cases in state facilities.
“In my opinion, the governor has been responsive to our concerns,” Parkinson wrote Monday in an email to The Tribune.
However, resources are stretched at the County Jail, which is essentially at capacity.
Parkinson said there is some room to expand, but that would require additional staffing and other costs.
In general, the County Jail housed an average of 560 inmates before realignment and about 680 since — an increase of almost 21 percent. To handle the increase, bunk beds have been moved into many cells.
Of all state counties, San Luis Obispo County ranks as the 19th-highest inmate increase. California’s overall county jail population increased 15 percent.
In SLO County
Before realignment: 567
After realignment: 684
Change: 117 more inmates, an increase of 20.6 percent