There are major changes coming with state prison realignment. How will it affect our county and what can people do to remain informed?
The recently passed state budget includes AB 109, called “prison realignment,” which will shift the responsibility for managing some offenders away from the state prison system to the county level. It requires that individuals convicted of non-violent, non-sexual, non-serious offenses who previously would have gone to state prison if sentenced to more than one year, will now serve their time in county jail for up to three years. State prisoners will not be sent back to county jails, but newly convicted offenders will only go to prison if sentenced to more than three years.
California state prisons now hold twice as many prisoners as they were designed to house. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the State of California must reduce the prison population by roughly 40,000 inmates in two years due to inhumane conditions resulting from severe overcrowding. Prison realignment is expected to go a long way toward meeting this mandate. State prisons gave up on rehabilitation years ago so we have an opportunity to use evidence-based practices to manage our local jail population, reduce recidivism and strengthen public safety. A Community Corrections Partnership has been created and the Board of Supervisors will approve their plan for effectively using newly released funds to divert minor offenders from the county jail, support successful rehabilitation programs, and implement alternative sentencing methods.
I have joined a coalition of justice practitioners, academics and elected officials to engage the public in considering these changes. Smart on Crime Santa Cruz held its first public event last May in Live Oak with more than 250 people in attendance. The next forum will be held in Watsonville on Sept. 26, 2011. To stay informed, look up “Smart on Crime” on Facebook or send an email to [email protected] to be added to the email list.
The county recently announced the closure of the Buena Vista Landfill on Sundays—a day which already sees the closure of the Davenport Landfill and the Ben Lomond Transfer Center. What are the Board’s concerns about this decision, which was proposed by Public Works, and how will they be addressed?
This year the county had to make nearly $15 million in cuts to our general fund. In addition, lower revenues from our landfill operations necessitated cutbacks to services at the county’s Buena Vista Landfill and the Transfer Center in Ben Lomond. During budget deliberations, the board asked for a report back on the possibility of closing the landfill on a day different than the City of Santa Cruz’s landfill in order to give people a chance to dispose of their waste elsewhere when one facility is closed. Concerns were expressed about people leaving their garbage at the landfill anyway if they find it closed, creating a pollution problem. Public Works will come back to the board in the coming months with an update and to determine what the impact has been on operations. This inconvenience is just one service that is lost when the public sector shrinks.
In light of several recent bicyclist deaths, what is the county doing to address or improve bicycle safety?
During budget hearings, the county’s Public Works [Department] proposed cutting $150,000 from the budget that was designated for maintenance of bike lanes in the unincorporated areas. Coming on the heels of two bicycle deaths, the board was not willing to make those cuts and voted unanimously to restore the funding. The county is also working hard to keep its Community Traffic Coalition work going; this program will be reduced but will still be available. As a member of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) I led the effort to maintain funding for bike programs including Bike to Work activities, Community Traffic Coalition and the bike signage program. The RTC will be working on the Monterey Scenic Trail in the coming year that is designed to create safe routes for biking and walking along the Monterey Bay Sanctuary and will begin work planning the much anticipated rail trail along the railroad corridor.