MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County's protracted fight over new state money earmarked for the supervision and custody of former prison inmates ended Tuesday at the tail-end of an old-fashioned democratic display of horse-trading.
In exchange for colleagues' support for nearly $4 million for the district attorney, health department and local police agencies in the 2013-2014 budget for next fiscal year, county supervisors Mary Nejedly Piepho and Candace Andersen endorsed a $20.7 million inmate realignment spending plan for a fiscal year already six months old.
An after-the-fact 2012-2013 budget decision requires four affirmative votes of the five-member board, and both women said they feared these unfunded components shortchanged key public safety protections. The county has had since 2011 responsibility for roughly 500 lower-level felons who were previously in state custody.
The blueprint came to the board after a contentious six-month debate on the Community Corrections Partnership, the seven-member panel charged with submitting to the supervisors a realignment operations and spending plan. It consists of the county sheriff, public defender, probation chief, district attorney, court, and one representative each from the health department and city police chiefs.
Both traditional law enforcement advocates and progressive reformers describe the belated budget as a compromise: $2.7 million for a jail expansion in the event inmate reduction programs fail, $900,000 for a pretrial release program that would free up space occupied by people awaiting trial, and $4 million for yet-to-be-determined programs run by community organizations.