Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Counties miffed that they have little say over Brown’s prison-realignment money

The millions of dollars that Gov. Jerry Brown is giving to counties to manage the state’s prisoner surplus is bypassing the watch of county boards of supervisors. And some counties don’t like this.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors this week passed a resolution vowing to exercise final say over its share of so-called prison realignment funds, despite what Brown’s realignment policy calls for, reported Brad Branan of The Sacramento Bee.

The realignment policy dictates that panels of law-enforcement and social service officials divvy out the cash. It’s a change from the way funds are normally distributed: through elected county boards of supervisors, which oversee just about all county matters.

The Board of Supervisors in Fresno County is also raising questions about the change.

“There is a problem when supervisors cannot participate in the deliberative process,” said Supervisor Andreas Borgeas. “We are virtually irrelevant here.”

The 1½-year-old realignment policy, which has been no stranger to controversy, has put counties in charge of thousands of felons who were formerly managed by the state in an effort to reduce California’s prison population. The state is compensating counties accordingly.

The money, however – about $28 million next year for Sacramento County and about $25 million for Fresno County — is being routed in an unprecedented fashion.

The panels set up under the realignment, called Community Corrections Partnerships, decide how to spend the state funds and county supervisors then vote on the spending plan, but in a way that deprives supervisors of any real power. The supervisors need a four-fifths vote to reject the plan; in other words, only two votes are needed for approval.

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Valley lawmakers ask governor for more prison money

More than a dozen Valley legislators are joining the region’s counties in urging Gov. Jerry Brown to deliver more money for public safety.

A letter sent to the governor this week by 13 lawmakers identifies the bum deal that the San Joaquin Valley got when it came to slicing up funding for the governor’s prison realignment. The letter asks the governor to reconsider the distribution.

“I haven’t met one person who thinks the current allocation is fair,” said state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, who spearheaded the bipartisan push in Sacramento to get the Valley more money.

Brown’s prison realignment is shifting low-level felons once managed by the state to local jails and probation departments. Many law enforcement agencies are complaining that the shift is bringing too much responsibility and not enough money.

As revealed in the Bee last spring, the 12 counties between Kern and San Joaquin are getting smaller shares of realignment funding this year than they got last year.  Meanwhile,  seven of nine Bay Area counties are getting larger shares.

Fresno County, for example, is getting $12,176 for every offender projected to be shifted from state to county supervision while Contra Costa County in the Bay Area is getting $40,346 per offender.

Brown officials have told The Bee that they’re not taking responsibility for the allocation, saying they passed it off to the county’s statewide lobbying association. The counties, however, have been bickering within the association.

Rubio hopes that, at the least, next year’s state budget will contain a more equitable formula for distributing the funds.

Among the lawmakers signing this week’s letter to the governor are Sens. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, and Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Assembly members Connie Conway, R-Tulare, Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, Henry Perea, D-Fresno, and Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals.