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Rocklin profits from state prison realignment

City funds probation officer, works with county partners to watch inmates on parole
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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Rocklin funds for probation

$100,000 state funding

$40,312 new Proposition 30 funding

$40,000 SIU rental of city building

Total: $180,312

Parole officer program cost: $130,000

Revenue for city: $50,312

Source: City of Rocklin

 

As some jurisdictions are struggling to respond, the city of Rocklin has positioned itself to acquire a new $50,000 revenue stream from the state's new prison realignment program.

Rocklin Police Chief Ron Lawrence is working with police chiefs in Roseville, Lincoln and Auburn, and the county sheriff, to administer the program with the existing Community Corrections Partnership.

"We are convinced that protecting the 360,000 (population) in Placer County is our No. 1 goal, not just our individual cities alone," Lawrence told the City Council in February.

The latest snapshot of the program shows Rocklin with 10 parolees, or 6 percent of the county's number, far less than Placer County with 58, Roseville with 41 and seven parolees deemed transient and without cities of residence. The make-up is 88 percent male with theft, drugs and DUI offenses making up the majority of offenses by the parolees.

Realignment, as Gov. Jerry Brown called it, is described as the fix to an overcrowded state prison system that the federal courts said violated laws for confinement of prisoners.

"It used to be that if you were convicted of a felony you could only do one year in county jail,” Lawrence explained. “If you were convicted of more than a year, you had to do that in state prison. Under the new rules of October 2011, that's all changed.”

Assembly Bill 109 did two things that affected Rocklin. The state transferred the responsibility of many non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual offenders, considered lower-threat prisoners, from state prisons back to Placer County. Those needing probation also needed to be monitored by local law enforcement. While the state sent money to handle the costs, it was underfunded.

Last year, Lawrence was able to get the county's drug task force, called the Special Investigations Unit, to rent a building belonging to the city of Rocklin for its work. That means with $100,000 from state funding, $40,312 new Proposition 30 money for prison realignment and rental revenue from the county task force, the city comes out ahead to fund a “fully burdened” (salary, plus benefits and equipment) police officer to contribute to the county's probation function. The city actually makes $50,312 as a new revenue source.

"Moving forward in future years that number will likely go up,” Lawrence said. “Prop. 30 for front-line law enforcement for prison realignment will likely increase.”

All of the jurisdictions agreed to assign four specially funded police officers to SIU to do the probation work.

"We changed the mission of the unit, which was previously just narcotic enforcement, to include the supervision of probationers," Lawrence said. "The drug percentage is a good dovetail with our Special Investigations Unit because they enforce narcotic laws and often they are many of the same customers."

Only Colusa, Lassen, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties are hiring more probation officers than Placer statewide, according to a published Stanford Law School report called “An Analysis of California Counties' AB 109 Implementation Plans.”

The city is prepared to have its officer check the ankle bracelets and home confinement of Rocklin parolees for a minimum two times per month.

"We will get involved in direct monitoring once all the approvals and plans of actions are finalized," said Capt. Lon Milka.

The shortest jail sentence for those on probation was two days, while the longest being served is six years and four months in county jail; however, the average sentence was 21 months, according to city documents.

"I am happy to say our (prison realignment program) is one of the best models in California, because it is working," Lawrence said.

The state is expected to appeal a federal court ruling last week that rejected a request from Gov. Brown to end judicial oversight of California's prison system. The state was ordered to reduce the prison population by 9,500 inmates to meet a court-ordered cap. It's unclear what that will mean for Placer County's jail, which is expected to meet its maximum occupancy sometime this year. Placer County's new jail in Roseville, is currently sitting empty on Industrial Boulevard as funding is being finalized to staff it. Rocklin has a holding cell at its headquarters on Rocklin Road, but it can only be used for a matter of hours before those in custody are required to be transported to the county jail.

City Councilmember Greg Janda hailed Lawrence's leadership in the Community Corrections Partnership.

"I've heard from several other agencies coordination with (Rocklin Police) has been fantastic and very successful," Janda said.

While Rocklin's participation maybe working financially for the city, a report by Stanford University's law school released last year criticized the implementation plans of the realignment statewide under AB109.

"AB109 transferred an unprecedented amount of responsibility to counties – it also gave them an unprecedented amount of discretion. The bill puts few limits on how counties can spend their money, and it does not require them to report any results of the outcomes," the report reads in part.

The report concluded, however, local authorities could do a better to affect re-offending than the state. That's something Lawrence said is important.

The officers work with county health and human services for counseling and access to drug rehab.

"They play a critical role," Lawrence said. "The goal is to reduce recidivism and get these folks not to re-offend."