Consequences of California’s Realignment Initiative
by Christopher Petrella and Alex Friedmann
David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the City University of New York, writes that “capitalism never resolves its problems; it simply rearranges them geographically.” The same can be said of California’s almost three-year-old Public Safety Realignment initiative – legislation designed to reduce the Golden State’s prison population, in part, by transferring thousands of prisoners from state facilities to county jails.
Sadly, Realignment has merely shifted the very forms of human suffering it was originally intended to relieve. This – the paradox of modern penal reform – adds a crucial dimension to discussions about who, why and how we punish offenders. Clearly, shifting a criminal justice crisis isn’t the same as solving one.
The Realignment Initiative
Since at least 2011, the State of California has been the epicenter of contemporary prison reform in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has noted that 70% of the total decrease in state prison populations from 2010 to 2011 was a direct result of California’s Public Safety Realignment initiative.
On May 23, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an order by a three-judge federal court requiring the state to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity within two years to alleviate overcrowding that resulted in unconstitutional medical and mental health care. [See: PLN, June 2011, p.1]. California Governor Jerry Brown had called the court’s order “a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals, many of whom are deeply disturbed.”
At the time, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities were operating around 180% of capacity. In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the state legislature and Governor Brown enacted two laws – AB 109 and AB 117 – designed to reduce the number of prisoners housed in state facilities. The initiative was implemented on October 1, 2011.
Realignment, as it’s commonly called, was intended to decrease California’s prison population by shifting “new non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenders” from state prisons to county jails, while concurrently reforming the state’s parole system. Under the initiative, such prisoners released from local jails are placed on county-directed post-release community supervision instead of state parole. For their part, counties receive funding from the state to help with expanded jail and probation populations under Realignment.
The Public Policy Institute of California has estimated that Realignment was directly responsible for an 11,116-prisoner drop in the CDCR’s population during the first three months the initiative was in effect. To date the state’s prison system has shed around 25,000 prisoners; however, this has failed to satisfy the federal courts, falling roughly 9,600 prisoners short of the target population cap. [See: PLN, Aug. 2013, p.20].
In February 2014, following several postponements, the three-judge court over the Plata v. Brown litigation – the longstanding class-action suit that led to the Supreme Court ruling and ultimately to Realignment – gave California two more years to lower the CDCR’s population to 137.5% of design capacity. [See: PLN, June 2013, p.36].
While the overall downward trend in California’s prison population appears auspicious at first blush, it’s impossible to fully evaluate the Realignment initiative without considering the impact it has had on local jails.
As a result of Realignment, county jails now house prisoners sentenced to more than a year of incarceration – offenders who previously would have been sent to state prisons. Since the Realignment initiative was first implemented, California’s jail population has predictably grown; the average daily population in local jails has increased by at least 12% – roughly equivalent to 9,000 prisoners – following Realignment.
That is, around one-third of the total state prison population reduction effectively has been shifted to county facilities. Three of the 10 largest jail systems in California have experienced increases of more than 15% in their average daily populations: Fresno (29.6%), Los Angeles (17.5%) and Riverside (18.6%). Further, as a result of Realignment, hundreds of offenders are serving lengthy sentences in jails instead of state prisons.
A February 2013 survey conducted by the California State Sheriffs’ Association found that not only were 1,109 prisoners in county jails serving 5- to 10-year sentences, but 44 were serving terms of more than 10 years. San Diego County reported it had 145 prisoners serving between 5 and 10 years, while San Bernardino County said it had 105. The longest sentence reported was 43 years.
California’s jail population is likely to continue to expand as prisoners with longer sentences accumulate in county jails due to Realignment. Longer sentences translate to lengthier stays, which in turn result in larger jail populations; in the short term this has generated a number of early releases due to lack of available bed space.
California has spent billions of dollars and decades in federal court due to poor conditions in its state prisons, but the problems it has been desperately trying to ameliorate are now trickling down to local governments as county jails are forced to deal with thousands of additional prisoners.
Counties Face Lawsuits
Recently, California-based law firms advocating for prisoners’ rights have sued or threatened lawsuits against a number of counties due to Realignment. The suits allege that the egregious conditions that first led to legal intervention against the state’s prison system – overcrowding, poor medical and dental care, and inadequate mental health treatment – are now being repeated at the county level.
Jails that were originally designed for short-term stays are now being flooded with thousands of new prisoners, many of whom are serving longer sentences and need robust rehabilitative services that counties currently do not have the capacity to provide. Fresno, Riverside, Alameda and Monterey counties have already been sued.
In September 2013, the California State Auditor issued a warning about Realignment: “The State does not currently have access to reliable and meaningful data concerning the realignment. As a result, the impact of realignment cannot be fully evaluated at this time. Even so, initial data indicate that local jails may not have adequate capacity and services to handle the influx of inmates caused by realignment. Until enough time has passed to allow the effectiveness and efficiency of realignment to be evaluated, we will consider it a statewide high-risk issue.”
Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller described Realignment as “a masterful stroke by Governor Brown to shift all the state’s prison problems to county jails.” The Monterey County jail has become so crowded that he considered buying triple-stack bunk beds to handle the deluge of prisoners. Then a nearby state prison donated extra triple bunks it had used when prison overcrowding was at its peak.
Ironically, filling CDCR facilities with such bunk beds, including in gyms and other areas not intended for housing prisoners, was one of the conditions that persuaded the three-judge federal court to order a reduction in the state’s prison population.
Nick Warner, legislative director of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, said counties are concerned they will be exposed to the same liabilities under Realignment that the state has spent billions of dollars trying to resolve.
“They had problems before, but realignment makes it worse because people are spending more time in jail,” said Don Specter, director of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, which represents state prisoners in the Plata litigation.
According to the Associated Press, a lawsuit filed by the Prison Law Office against Riverside County in March 2013 claims that “medical care is so poor in its jails that some of its 4,000 inmates go months without seeing a doctor. When they do, the lawsuit contends they receive only cursory medical exams, inadequate follow-up and are rarely referred to specialists even when outside care is clearly needed.”
For example, the class-action suit describes the case of a female prisoner held at the Riverside County Jail who had Stage IV colon cancer. “Nobody paid attention to her complaints that the cancer had returned,” said Prison Law Office attorney Sara Norman. The lawsuit also notes that prisoners at the county’s five jails “face cruel and inhumane deficits in medical and mental health care.”
The suit asks the U.S. District Court to order the county “to make a laundry list of fixes, such as increased staffing, timely access to care, reliable screening and emergency-response procedures, and timely and adequate medication, supplies and mental health treatment,” the Press-Enterprise reported.
The county responded by moving to dismiss the case, claiming that the prisoners who complained about inadequate health care had refused to take their medication and did not attend medical appointments. Further, the county argued that the plaintiffs “also provided inaccurate and incomplete information about their medical history and conditions” when they first arrived at the jail and during subsequent meetings with medical staff. The suit, which does not seek monetary damages, remains pending. See: Gray v. County of Riverside, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 5:13-cv-00444-VAP-OP.
The Prison Law Office has also filed a lawsuit against Fresno County, alleging that prisoners at the county jail are routinely denied treatment for physical or mental illnesses and dental problems, and are vulnerable to attacks from other prisoners as a result of the jail’s poor design and inadequate staffing. According to CBS-Sacramento, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said she could not discuss the suit due to settlement discussions. See: Hall v. County of Fresno, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 1:11-cv-02047-LJO-BAM.
“Since Fresno has radically cut back outpatient mental health services, the jail has become a costly dumping ground for people with mental illness who need care but cannot find it elsewhere,” noted Rachel Scherer, an attorney with Disability Rights California.
In November 2012, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children sued Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern over his jail’s treatment of prisoners with disabilities, with both sides blaming the increase in disabled prisoners entering the jail since Realignment. “Unfortunately, you can’t just knock down a wall and make handicapped-accessible cells. It takes time,” said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson. See: Legal Services for Prisoners with Children v. Ahern, Superior Court for the County of Alameda (CA), Case No. RG12656266.
The Monterey County Public Defender’s Office filed a lawsuit in May 2013 to remedy substandard healthcare at the county jail that it claimed was “broken in every way.” Calling the jail’s medical and mental health care “woefully inadequate,” the 72-page complaint includes a litany of allegations that, it says, combine with severe overcrowding to put the lives of both staff and prisoners at risk. The class-action suit alleges delays in medical treatment, deficient mental health care, inadequate suicide prevention measures, failure to provide reasonable accommodations for prisoners with disabilities and failure to protect prisoners from violence.
“It seems that our in-custody medical cases have been exacerbated due to realignment,” said Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller. “We haven’t quantified it yet, but that seems to be the trend. It used to be when you were in county jail for six or eight months, you didn’t need the full range of medical services.”
“Monterey County has inadequate facilities and programs for inmates who use wheelchairs, are blind or have other disabilities, or are mentally ill,” stated attorney Michael Bien with the San Francisco law firm of Rosen, Bien, Galvan and Grunfeld, which also represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The defendants include Monterey County, the sheriff’s office and California Forensic Medical Group, a company that provides medical and mental health services at the county jail. See: Hernandez v. County of Monterey, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 5:13-cv-02354-PSG.
Although Los Angeles County – the most populous county in the state – has not yet been sued, local officials are worried that federal authorities could “soon intervene in the operation of Los Angeles County’s outdated and [overcrowded] jail system.” Consequently, the county is in the process of replacing its aging Men’s Central Jail with a new facility.
Violence Increases in Local Jails
The Associated Press reported in November 2013 that several counties had experienced a rise in prisoner violence due to increased jail populations under Realignment, based on data obtained from the ten largest county jail systems. “Some jails have seen violence dip, but the trend is toward more assaults since the law took effect on Oct. 1, 2011,” the AP stated.
The number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults increased by 32% in the first year after Realignment compared with the previous year. Assaults on staff increased by 27%. The rise in violence outpaced the rate of growing jail populations, which rose 14% in 2012.
“You’re seeing a little more gang influence inside the jails and a little more violence,” stated San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon. “Certainly, the sophistication level of these inmates is different.”
This is despite the fact that more serious offenders, including those convicted of violent and sexual felony offenses, are sent to state prisons.
“The violence is just being transferred to the local facilities from the state system,” said Fresno County Assistant Sheriff Tom Gattie, whose jail experienced a 48% increase in prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the year after Realignment went into effect.
Comparably, the CDCR reported a 15% drop in prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and a 24% reduction in prisoner-on-staff assaults following Realignment, as the overcrowded state prison population declined.
Sacramento County’s jail system had the greatest increase in assaults on staff, which rose 164% in spite of a fairly stable jail population.
In some cases, jails are unprepared for experienced prisoners serving longer sentences, including gang members. “We now have a hierarchy of inmates who have a prison culture,” stated Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko.
“Jails were for 30-day stints, and the most you could do was a year. They weren’t built for people to exercise. They don’t have law libraries. They don’t have jobs,” said Don Specter with the Prison Law Office. “A lot of guys would rather go to prison just to have something to do.”
In June 2013, acknowledging that certain prisoners serving lengthy sentences did not belong in county jails, Governor Brown offered to return such offenders to the state prison system if counties would agree to take other state prisoners instead. The deal failed to go through, though, in part due to concerns that counties would send their worst, most expensive prisoners to CDCR facilities.
California Assemblyman Ken Cooley introduced legislation in February 2013 (AB 222) that would require prisoners who commit serious drug offenses – including those convicted of selling or transporting more than a kilo of cocaine, heroin or meth – to be sent to state prisons rather than local jails under Realignment.
“These county jail facilities were not set up for long-term incarceration,” he said. The bill died in January 2014.
Impact on Crime Rates
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reported in December 2013 that in addition to reducing the state’s prison population, Realignment may also be having an impact on crime rates.
From 2011 to 2012 – the first year after Realignment was implemented – the state’s violent crime rate increased by 3.4% while property crime rose by 7.6%. However, the report found “no evidence that realignment has had an effect on the most serious offenses, murder and rape.” Although “California’s overall increases in violent crime between 2011 and 2012 appear to be part of a broader upward trend also experienced in other states,” the study noted there was “robust evidence that realignment is related to increased property crime.”
In the latter regard, an analysis by the PPIC indicated that further reductions in the state’s prison population under Realignment could cause property crime – which includes burglary, larceny and auto theft – to increase by an additional 7 to 12%. The most significant impact was with respect to auto theft; the study estimated that due to more prisoners being released, Realignment was responsible for an additional 24,000 stolen vehicles per year.
“As realignment continues to unfold, California should consider safer, smarter, and more cost-effective approaches to corrections and crime prevention,” the report concluded.
“This is really interesting work by the PPIC,” said Matt Cate, director of the California State Association of Counties. “We’ve known for a long time that incarceration is very expensive, and for a lot of offenders it doesn’t effectively prevent criminal behavior in the long run. Under [Realignment], counties are using evidence-based programs that help individual offenders with basic housing needs, drug or alcohol treatment, and employment services. We know these programs help offenders, but often the individuals’ needs are great – especially with respect to behavioral health issues – and it takes time to develop local service capacity.”
Some critics have suggested using part of the money saved through Realignment to hire additional police officers to address increased crime rates. Of course, that would likely result in more arrests and thus more offenders returning to prison – offsetting the impact of the Realignment initiative vis-à-vis reducing the state’s prison population.
According to a December 23, 2013 press release from the CDCR, a study of all prisoners who served their full sentences and were released during the 12-month period after Realignment went into effect found slightly lower re-arrest rates and static re-conviction rates. The rate of prisoners returning to prison was significantly lower post-Realignment due to new policies for offenders who violate the conditions of their supervised release.
The CDCR noted that “prior to Realignment, more than 60,000 felon parole violators returned to state prison annually, with an average length of stay of 90 days. Beginning on October 1, 2011, most parole violations are now served in county jails. Also, offenders newly convicted of certain low-level offenses serve their time in county jail.”
A report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, released in January 2014, concluded there was no clear connection between the state’s Realignment initiative and crime rates, as some counties experienced an increase in crime and others reported a decrease.
More Prison and Jail Beds
While Realignment has reduced California’s prison population, it has not led to the closure of state prisons. Although initially slated for closure in 2012, the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, which houses over 2,800 prisoners, remained open under a proposal announced by Governor Brown in August 2013. The proposal also involved sending more prisoners to out-of-state privately-operated facilities, as well as housing them in in-state private prisons.
“[W]orking with all the other stakeholders, I’ve come up with a plan that, in the short term, meets the capacity – not by letting thousands of people out but by finding additional places for incarceration, both in-state and out-of-state,” Governor Brown stated.
However, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the proposal was “a plan with no promise and no hope.” Indeed, instead of closing prisons as other states have done in recent years, the CDCR is opening new facilities – including a 1,722-bed prison hospital in Stockton. [See: PLN, March 2013, p.56]. Further, in early January 2014, the state indicated it planned to build three medium-security housing units to hold more than 2,300 prisoners.
California officials have also contracted with Corrections Corporation of America to lease the company’s 2,304-bed California City Correctional Center. Under the three-year, $28.5 million-a-year lease agreement announced in October 2013, the facility will be operated by former CCA staff who have become state employees after an abbreviated six-week training course.
“Upon completion of their training, they will have the same knowledge and skills as all newly hired CDCR correctional officers,” said CDCR spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman.
The hiring arrangement was acceptable to the state’s powerful prison guards’ union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), because the former CCA employees will join the union, which has been losing members in recent years. The CDCR has also contracted with private prison firm GEO Group to house prisoners in-state, including at the company’s McFarland Female Community Reentry Facility, Central Valley MCCF, Golden State MCCF and Desert View MCCF.
The extra bed space is needed because the state’s prison population continues to grow, stated Prison Law Office director Don Specter.
“It’s continuing to increase, so any building would be spending billions of dollars for only a temporary fix,” he said. “It also shows that realignment was only a temporary fix, as well.”
Additionally, the CDCR currently houses around 8,500 prisoners in out-of-state CCA-operated facilities in Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi. It was the governor’s threat to move up to 4,000 more prisoners to private prisons in other states that contributed to the federal court overseeing the Plata litigation to give the CDCR two more years to meet the court-ordered prison population reduction.
“You really can’t build your way out of the problem,” Specter observed.
Meanwhile, counties are seeking to expand their jails to accommodate the influx of prisoners under Realignment. Since 2012, state officials have given $1.2 billion to California counties for jail construction plus $500 million to renovate or expand existing facilities, which is expected to add almost 15,000 new jail beds statewide. The Realignment initiative provides funding to counties through vehicle license fees and a portion of the state’s sales tax.
“People commit crimes in the local community and they are now, to a greater degree, being supervised, being rehabilitated or being incarcerated locally. We’re transferring billions of dollars to achieve that goal,” Governor Brown stated. “We want the community that spawns the crime to handle the crime.”
A November 2013 Realignment Report Card by Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) examined the Realignment plans of 13 “key” counties, with respect to “the balance between community-based programs that reduce imprisonment and plans to expand jail capacity or build new jail beds.”
The CURB report noted that “Shifting people from State prison to County jail is not a solution to our prison and budget crises. Realignment can most safely and effectively be implemented by using alternative sentencing and community-based services instead of expanding imprisonment and policing, both of which [are] socially and economically costly.”
However, only two of the 13 states examined in the report received a passing grade: Alameda and Santa Clara, which “have focused their resources on innovative strategies to reduce their jail population and providing programming and alternatives to incarceration.” All of the other counties intend to expand their jail capacity, including five – Kern, Riverside, San Mateo, Los Angeles and San Bernardino – that each plan to build two new jail facilities.
Those plans are not always successful, though. In December 2013, requests by Riverside and San Bernardino counties for $80 million in grants for new jail construction were denied by state officials. Riverside County already has almost 4,000 jail beds and is in the process of adding a 1,250-bed, $267 million expansion at one of its facilities, while San Bernardino County has around 6,000 jail beds.
On May 6, 2014, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with plans to demolish the Men’s Central Jail and renovate a facility for female detainees at a cost of approximately $1.8 billion. The Men’s Central Jail currently holds around 19,000 prisoners; it will be replaced with a treatment facility for offenders with substance abuse and mental health problems. The Board authorized initial architectural plans for the new jail and an environmental impact report.
The $1.8 billion proposal to replace the Men’s Central Jail was the least costly of five plans submitted by a consultant hired by the county, Vanir Construction Management.
Still, according to Board Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, replacing the jail is the “most expensive infrastructure project in the history of the county, without a doubt, not even close.” He objected to the proposal, stating, “I don’t believe there was a serious effort made at considering alternatives” to building a new detention facility.
The ACLU lambasted the proposal because replacing the jail would leave bed space capacity unchanged – though overcrowding would be decreased while access to care for the mentally ill and prisoners with drug or alcohol addictions would increase. Esther Lim of the ACLU criticized the Board of Supervisors for hiring Vanir, which specializes in construction projects, including jail construction, as a consultant.
“It was not surprising that a construction company in its report proposed five options, all involving construction of new buildings,” she said.
Early Releases Criticized
Technically, prisoners are not released early under Realignment; rather, those that are eligible serve their sentences in county jails rather than state prisons. Governor Brown emphasized that no prisoners would be released early, and the CDCR states on its website there will be no early releases for state prisoners.
While it may be correct that offenders are not released early from state prisons, that isn’t true when it comes to former prisoners who violate the terms of their supervised release and are subsequently jailed.
As part of Realignment, most prisoners are no longer released on parole under state supervision but instead are placed on community supervision under county probation officials. When they violate their supervision they can be sent to jail for up to six months. However, due to overcrowding caused by Realignment, community supervision violators typically serve only a small amount of their jail sanction – sometimes just a few days.
According to a survey of county jails by the Board of State and Community Corrections, releases due to lack of bed space increased by 21% over the first nine months of Realignment. The most recent quarterly jail survey, from July to September 2013, reported 6,189 early releases statewide.
In February 2013, Assembly members Ken Cooley and Susan Eggman introduced a bill, AB 601, that would have required offenders who violate their community supervision to be sent to prison for up to a year. The legislation failed to pass, in part because it would have led to an increase in the number of state prisoners at a time when California is trying to further reduce its prison population to comply with the court order in the Plata litigation.
“Any attempts to change Realignment that would send more offenders to state prison must be reconciled with the federal court order to reduce prison crowding,” stated CDCR spokesperson Jeffrey Callison.
High-profile crimes committed by some released prisoners have led to public outrage. For example, in June 2013, a few months after Dustin James Kinnear, 26, was released from prison and placed on community supervision under the Realignment initiative, he stabbed to death a 23-year-old woman on the Hollywood Walk of Fame because she refused to give him a dollar. Critics argued that Kinnear, who has mental health problems, would have been incarcerated at the time were it not for Realignment.
Previously, on December 2, 2012, former prisoner Ka Pasasouk, who was on community supervision under Realignment, shot and killed four people in Los Angeles. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty while relatives of the victims have filed suit against the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Probation Department, claiming county officials had failed to properly supervise Pasasouk after he was released from prison.
“This is an experiment with people’s lives,” stated Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, referring to Realignment.
The Associated Press reported in March 2014 that some counties were undermining the Realignment initiative by increasing the number of offenders sent to state prisons due to charging decisions by local prosecutors. In fiscal year 2013-2014, 5,500 prisoners charged with and convicted of second felonies were sent to the state prison system – a 33% increase compared with the previous fiscal year.
“We’re not quite sure what’s behind the trend,” said Aaron Edwards, with California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. “When you see such a drastic increase year-over-year ... that kind of suggests that there’s been some kind of behavior change at the county level, in terms of how they are charging, whether they are choosing to charge individuals as second-strikers or not.”
Apparently, local prosecutors are exercising their discretion to file more serious charges against defendants, such as felonies rather than misdemeanors, in order to secure convictions that will send them to prison rather than jail under Realignment – thereby reducing the burden on county jails.
The California District Attorneys Association denied that prosecutors had altered their charging practices, but San Joaquin Public Defender Peter Fox contended there has been “some attitudinal backlash against realignment” by district attorneys and judges.
As of April 30, 2014, California’s prison population was around 134,800 – 2,243 more than a year earlier. This poses a problem in terms of meeting the federal court-ordered prison population cap by February 2016.
Counties continue to seek additional money from the state for their own increasing jail populations, including funds for jail construction and expansion as well as for rehabilitative and treatment programs.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson noted that “if you want to see success in realignment, then the counties and local governments need help with the resources to do that.”
Lobbyists representing Los Angeles County have asked state officials for assistance in funding the county’s $1.8 billion overhaul of its jail system.
“We have received approximately thirty percent of the realigned population – 6,000 county jail inmates that have been sentenced under realignment,” stated lobbyist Alan Fernandes. “But we’ve received about five percent of the available funding for jail construction.”
Some lawmakers, however, have criticized the practice of pouring more money into building more jails. For example, state Senator Loni Hancock observed that the solution to California’s prison overcrowding problem is not to “replicate our prison system county jail-by-county jail.”
In May 2014, a state Senate budget subcommittee opposed a proposal to grant an additional $500 million to counties for jail construction and expansion, instead voting to provide such funds for construction projects and programs “designed to provide rehabilitative services and housing for individuals convicted of crimes.” This would potentially include treatment programs, transitional housing, and substance abuse and mental health care facilities.
“[The] vote was a small but important step in using realignment as an opportunity to find and fund real alternatives to the current disaster of mass incarceration,” said Diana Zuñiga, with Californians United for a Responsible Budget.
Meanwhile, counties will likely continue to face lawsuits and other difficulties as they grapple with the fallout of the state’s Realignment initiative and attempt to cope with their overcrowded jails – which they will have to bring into compliance with standards for holding long-term prisoners that such facilities were never designed to accommodate. Realignment and its attendant impact on local jails further corroborate the notion that correctional overcrowding is a consequence – not a cause – of California’s ongoing practice of using incarceration as a catchall solution for complex socio-economic, political and cultural challenges facing the state and its citizens.