Two emails lay out the different opinions of two of Contra Costa County's top law enforcement leaders on the use of state "realignment funds" meant to aid counties in dealing with the influx of state prison inmates transferred to local jurisdictions to relieve prison overcrowding.
The first email is from county Sheriff David Livingston and the second is the response from Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus.
A Contra Costa County panel meeting Thursday morning could decide how to allocate the money.
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston on jail expansion
From: David Livingston
Contra Costa County sheriff
Sent: Tue 7/31/2012
Subject: URGENT: County Realignment Budget Votes
As you may know, the Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) will be voting next week (August 9th, 8:00 a.m. at 50 Douglas Drive, Martinez) on a large range of programs related to realignment in our County. There are limited funds for Probation, the Sheriff's Office, the Public Defender, the District Attorney and County Health. Everyone shares the same goal of eventually lowering the recidivism rate and more effectively moving offenders from a custodial environment to community re-entry when possible.
However, I stand by my pledge to you that newly sentenced offenders from your cities and parole violators from your communities will be held in secured detention unless there is
For now, we are doing our best to plan for the changes imposed on us and handle the influx of new prisoners into our system. For example, we are seeking a modest increase of 150 beds for the (West County Jail in Richmond) to allow more offenders to access our programs there and to solve some of our classification issues. We are also seeking funding for a new bus, (one with an onboard bathroom) to allow us to transfer prisoners to the new intake center in Kern County. Believe me, there are many challenges ahead. However, there are ample realignment funds available this year to meet the needs of most agencies who handle criminal offenders. Some citizen groups in the County's West end are opposing any increase in jail space instead favoring early release of all offenders. They are also pressing for me to stop "cooperating" with ICE under Secure Communities, something I have refused to do. I have met with those groups but we respectfully disagree. I believe it is my obligation to plan for the worst and hope for the best as we accept increasing numbers of offenders. (Interestingly, one recent "Non-Non-Non" offender was sentenced to eight years in my jail. We have also found other so-called "Non-Non-Non" offenders have a prior history of sexual assaults, violence and similar crimes.) It is clear to me that many of these criminals must remain in custody -- community safety requires it.
You are all collectively represented by Chief Magnus at the CCP table but I wanted you to hear directly from me too. I encourage you and your community officials to follow the progress as we reach resolution on the allocation of the upcoming year's realignment budget. Please call me if you would like to talk further.
[Contra Costa County Sheriff] David Livingston
Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus responds:
From: Chris Magnus
Richmond Police Chief
Date: August 1, 2012
Dear Fellow Chiefs and Sheriff:
I have been serving on the Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) as one of 7 voting members for the past 11 months. During that time, I have attended all the CCP meetings as well as the many CCP-sponsored community outreach meetings. I have also served on a subcommittee that selected the members of the Community Advisory Board, a larger, more diverse group of individuals representing agencies and organizations from throughout Contra Costa County that advises the CCP on realignment and re-entry issues. Throughout this time, I have done my best to raise issues, ask questions, and bring up concerns that I believe would be of concern to you as well as to the residents of our various communities.
One of the themes I have heard repeatedly from the start of the realignment process moving forward is that whatever system we develop at the County level to deal with realignment offenders not simply be a duplication of the failed corrections system at the State level. I think we are all aware of the outrageously high rate of recidivism among individuals coming out of prison and the general lack of resources in our communities when it comes to programs and services that might change this, including education and employment services, housing, mental health and substance abuse services, and overall community support.
I fully appreciate the Sheriff's concerns about holding dangerous individuals in secure detention, but a very large group of offenders currently held in County detention facilities are there awaiting trial -- they haven't been found guilty of anything yet -- and in many cases, the only thing separating them from other individuals who are out on bail awaiting trial is lack of financial resources to post bail. In addition, many of these individuals are not in jail awaiting trial for violent crimes and could potentially be eligible for other forms of pre-trial supervision, including ankle monitoring and home detention.
Clearly, one of the things we desperately need in Contra Costa County is BAIL REFORM. We need better tools to assess the relative risk of individuals who are potentially eligible for bail -- the kind of risk assessment tools that have been used elsewhere in our state and around the country to better determine who needs to stay in Jail because of their danger to the community, versus who could safely be released in most cases. This is not just a matter of enhanced community safety, it is a matter of reducing costs. Keeping low-risk pre-trial inmates in jail is incredibly costly -- and it means bed space may not be available for the people we really want there because of the dangers they pose to others.
The Sheriff mentioned the issue of "Secure Communities," the federal program that involves local governments working closely with ICE to identify and assist in the deportation process of non-documented individuals. What he did not say was that there are many local government and law enforcement leaders around the country who do not support this program and who believe it directly hinders their ability to do effective community policing within their diverse communities. They also believe that immigration enforcement is a federal, not local law enforcement responsibility. In addition to the legal distinctions that separate federal, state, and local law enforcement, perhaps the most salient point is that there is no federal funding for local governments to perform this function.
Why is the "Secure Communities" program even relevant to the realignment discussion? One reason is that our Sheriff's Department contracts out bed space to ICE to house undocumented individuals for deportation. Many of these individuals, contrary to ICE's representations to the contrary, are not dangerous or violent criminals and are caught up in the immigration web because of minor, misdemeanor violations. How many beds does ICE contract with the CCCSO for? I've asked this question and am hoping that this data will be supplied soon -- before we vote on a budget that would dramatically add bed space to the West County Detention facility at a cost of millions of dollars (in facilities and new personnel costs). Why should we even be leasing bed space to ICE or other state/federal law enforcement agencies if we have too little space to accommodate our own county-convicted individuals?
The State has allocated $19 million to Contra Costa County for the current fiscal year's realignment costs. My hope is that we use this money sensibly and not simply duplicate the failures of the State's prison system. This could mean a modest increase in secure bed space, but before we build and hire, wouldn't it make some sense to implement the needed bail reforms first that have worked so well in other places -- without increasing the rate of crime? Wouldn't it also make sense to free up the space currently contracted out to ICE and use those beds for our own County prisoners? Finally, shouldn't we also make sure that we are actually listening to the recommendations of the Community Advisory Board the CCP created about spending some of this $19 million for things like "One-Stop Re-Entry Centers" and improving programs like PACT [Police and Corrections Team, a state parole agency and local police collaboration to monitor prison parolees and help them rejoin their communities] so that they can actually provide real services to returning offenders?
The Sheriff makes it sound like the concerns about duplicating the failed State system are limited to some fringe element from the "County's West end." I realize he has not had a chance to attend many of the CCP meetings, but the feedback that has been expressed both at our meetings and during our outreach efforts into the communities around the county has been from a broad cross-section of residents and organizations throughout all sections of Contra Costa County. It has been coming from people who live in your cities and towns, not just from Richmond or any other one specific community.
I will continue to do my best to listen, learn, and advocate on behalf of our different communities by encouraging a "go slow" approach on expanding the Jail and hiring significant numbers of new deputies until we have more data and better information about what can really work to reduce crime and recidivism. Ultimately, such data may justify these expenditures on bed-space and personnel, but things like bail reform, enhanced electronic monitoring, and other non-traditional initiatives should be given a chance to work before we simply do more of what has failed in the past.
I support the efforts to increase the number of personnel and other resources needed by our Probation Department to handle these AB109 offenders. I also appreciate the changing roles of the Courts, the D.A., and the Public Defender's Office in dealing with the challenges created by realignment. With your help, I will continue to scrutinize budget requests and opportunities with the hope of maximizing public safety, increasing resources available to local government, and addressing local communities' concerns. Please feel free to contact me any time with your ideas and suggestions.
[Richmond Police Chief] Chris Magnus