County jails are bailing out the state of California big time by accepting certain low-risk offenders who would otherwise have gone to state prison.
Even in our relatively small county, the realignment law already has made a difference: Since it took effect on Oct. 1, nine inmates who would have done their time in state prison have been sent to San Luis Obispo County Jail instead, for sentences ranging from 16 months to four years.
As we’ve said before, we must demand that the state provide counties with full financial reimbursement for taking on this obligation.
At the same time, we should take advantage of this opportunity to improve on a corrections system that is too often a revolving door.
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In other words, we should aim to improve on the state’s lousy record of rehabilitating inmates.
As Sheriff Ian Parkinson recently outlined, additional programs are planned at the County Jail that will help inmates succeed after they’re released.
One, for example, is a re-entry program for inmates who’ve served more than six months in jail. Parkinson also has spoken about providing more educational and vocational programming to jail inmates, though such offerings are dependent on funding.
Given that some inmates will now be serving years, rather than months, at the County Jail, we believe such opportunities are going to be more important than ever.
It’s also critical to carefully track inmates after they are released to determine which programs are the most successful.
Here’s our hope: In time, realignment — while borne of necessity — will prove to be a key to reducing recidivism.