Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Oct 01st
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

 

Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

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

 

Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”