Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Jan 26th
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

 

Force of Nature

Santa Cruz’s Carlie Statsky brings her love of the natural world to the hyper-personal art of wedding photography

 

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

The magical time of Mercury’s retrograde cycle is here once again, until Feb. 11, and then some. The Mercury retro cycle actually lasts eight weeks when we consider its retrograde shadow, giving us six months a year for review. We know the rules of Mercury retro: Be careful with everything; cars, driving, money, resources, friends, friendships, groups, interactions, thinking, talking, communications. Avoid big purchases, important meetings and important repairs. Mercury retrograde times are for review, reassessment and rest. Our minds are overloaded from the last Mercury retro. Our minds need to assess what we’ve done since October—eliminating what is not needed, keeping what’s important, preparing for new information in the next three months (till mid-May). Mercury in Aquarius retrograde … we reinvent ourselves, seek the unusual, we don’t hide, we’re just careful. We live in two worlds; outer appearances and inner reckonings, with both sides of our brain activated. Yet, like the light of the Gemini twins, one light waxes (inner world), the other (outer realities) wanes. Like Virgo, we see what’s been overlooked—assessing, ordering and organizing information. It’s an entirely inner process. When speaking we may utter only half of the sentence. We’re in the underworld, closer to Spirit, eyes unseeing, senses alerted, re-doing things over and over till we sometimes collapse. Because we’re in other realms, we’re wobbly, make mistakes, and don’t really know what we want. It’s not a time for decisions. Not yet. It’s a time of review. And completing things. Mercury retro: integration, slowing down, resolution, rapprochement.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of January 23

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Bye Bye Benten!

Benten closing, plus Award-winning gin, a massive burrito and chocolate review

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Scanning the shelves of Deluxe Foods of Aptos, which carries an impressive selection of local and imported wines, I picked up a bottle of Trout Gulch Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, described as “a local favorite” by the busy market.

 

Cremer House

What’s old is cutting-edge again in Felton

 

How are you going to make a tangible difference in your community this year?

Spread more kindness and compassion.