Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Mar 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Shift Happens

news2The woman behind Santa Cruz County’s lauded maneuvering of prison realignment

Santa Cruz County, and its longtime chief administrative officer Susan Mauriello, in particular, has received statewide recognition for its effective response to state-mandated requirements for prison realignment. Last year, Mauriello spent a good deal of time in Sacramento explaining to CAOs, sheriffs and chief probation officers from other counties how Santa Cruz County has managed to reduce county incarceration rates, save tax dollars and improve public safety in the process. They’ve looked to her for advice on how they, too, can meet the challenges of the new state law, AB 109, also known as the “Public Safety Realignment Act.”  

Referred to as a “sea change” in criminal justice reform at the state level, AB 109 was passed last year largely as a result of a Supreme Court order to reduce overcrowding in the California state prison system. The Realignment Act requires counties throughout the state to shoulder this burden by transferring custody of local, low-level offenders, who would otherwise do their time in state prison, to county jails. The law also adds significant responsibilities to county probation departments, mandating that the revolving door of repeat offenders cycling in and out of state prisons on parole violations at least be slowed down.

In September 2011, after serving on a special executive committee of the California State Association of Counties (which was charged with working out a funding formula that reimburses counties for the additional expense of the new law), Mauriello was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to serve on the Corrections Standards Authority, a commission overseeing prison policies statewide. On Sunday, Feb. 12, at a presentation for the Santa Cruz League of Women Voters “Valentine Luncheon,” Mauriello discussed Santa Cruz’s response to the new law, including local measures to reduce incarceration and strengthening community-based programs that have proven to reduce  probation violations.    

“We don’t have a choice,” Mauriello said. ”Either we focus on alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice programs, or we spend a lot more money locking people up. Given the competing priorities for funding, taxpayers have been pretty clear they don’t want to continue funding state prisons at current levels.”   

About 100 additional prisoners will be housed in local county jails each year as a result of realignment, Mauriello explained. These will be so-called “triple non” offenders, sentenced for non-violent, non-serious, or non-sex related crimes.  To accommodate these additional prisoners, the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office conducted a thorough review of incarceration practices last year, and borrowed from past experience of the county’s Probation Department in reducing overcrowding in juvenile hall beginning in the late-1990s.  

Chief Probation Officer Scott MacDonald is proud of the fact that Santa Cruz County, based on demonstrated success, was the first “replication site” for continued funding by the Annie E. Casey Foundation for the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). Using a combination of improved screening aimed at detaining only high-risk offenders and community-based programs helping offenders meet probation requirements and stay out of jail, admissions to juvenile hall decreased by 52 percent between 1996 and 2009.    

“Previous policies of mandatory jail time for non-criminal, technical violation of probation were driven by failed, fear-based policies that didn’t necessarily fit the offender, rather than evidenced-based policies that have been shown to work,” MacDonald tells GT. “Fortunately for us, we have a local political culture, and organizational cultures within law enforcement agencies and probation, that are willing to embrace change.”

Transferring more than 10 years of experience with JDAI to adult prisoners gave Santa Cruz County a running start at meeting the requirements of the Realignment Act. Prior to October 2011, when AB 109 went into effect, county jails were running at about 125 percent of capacity, according to Jim Hart, the Sheriff’s Office chief deputy of corrections. With the additional prisoners required by the law, and without changes to pre-sentencing and alternatives to custody, it was projected the jails would be running at 200 percent of capacity within two years. “Changes needed to be made, relatively fast,” says Hart.  

After careful review of the charges, background and sentences of the inmate population, Hart said they found 25 percent of the inmates were doing time for relatively minor misdemeanors. Using a “state-of-the-art” risk assessment tool, more inmates were let out for work release and electronic monitoring programs, reducing the inmate population by 20 percent since June 2011.

“I’m not a politician,” Mauriello stressed at the luncheon. “One of my main responsibilities is watching where the money goes.” Mauriello has done this for more than 20 years as the county’s CAO, where she is responsible for preparing and implementing the county’s budget. “The least we can do is to stop spending money on incarceration when, in many cases, it’s been shown to do more harm than good.”

Mauriello defers the recognition she has received to her bosses on the Board of Supervisors. “You don’t get to do this work without a lot of people behind you,” Mauriello says. “Several members of the Board of Supervisors have championed these issues of justice reform with a priority on public safety, and they’re the ones who have to answer to voters.”  Photo: Patrick Dwire

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by Bill Smallman, February 23, 2012
My competitor for the 5th District Supervisor position, Bruce McPherson, states that if he is the only candidate experienced enough to: "Hit the ground running" by "Overseeing the "Realignment"" plan. Seems to me, this is a FAILURE of the State Government to keep prison populations in check, and a clever way for the State to cover this up. Mr McPherson has held major office positions in the State Government during the past two decades. The number of prisoners that are to be released is 30,000. Nobody wants to mention this,( in fear of being branded a racist), but an estimate number of illegal immigrants in CA State prisons in 2008 was 27,000. I am not a racist, but I do believe controlled immigration, which the State could of controlled long ago, would of helped decrease the criminal element that is plaguing this State and increasing prison populations which we cannot afford to control. I do honestly hope these prisoners do successfully integrate into society. My campaign is all about improving the Economy and creating JOBS, which I will WORK towards as I believe this is the only realistic way to take on this added burden by giving these guys jobs, versus someone overseeing it from the golf course.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015 Editor's Picks

BEST NIGHT CAP WARSAW MULE AT SHADOWBROOK
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals