Jerry Brown and Law Enforcement Representatives Tout Governor’s Proposed Tax Extension

Trying to boost support for Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend $11 billion in taxes set to expire this year, leaders of some of  the state’s top law enforcement organizations said April 13 that their operations would be crippled without the money Brown proposes to send them from the tax revenue.

At a Capitol press conference hosted by the Democratic governor, representatives of sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys and probation officers all praised Brown’s proposal to shift more responsibility – and money – to them as part of his budget plan.

“The past fiscal year we were asked to cut to the bone,” said Merced Sheriff Mark Pazin, president of the California State Sheriffs Association. “Without (the governor’s) constitutional amendment, we’re looking at financial amputation.”

Brown’s plan, which he described as “efficient, intelligent and creative,” would shift responsibility for parolees to counties and incarcerate low-level offenders in county jails rather than prisons.

Money from a portion of the tax extension – which Brown insists must be approved by voters – would cover the costs of the added duties.

Previously, sheriffs expressed concerns over what Brown says will be the sending of up to 40,000 offenders and parolees to counties because of jail overcrowding.

In examining a part of the budget for the current fiscal year, the Legislative Analyst said that in 2007 over 200,000 jail inmates were released early due to lack of space.

The analyst also noted that “roughly half of all county jails in the state are under court–ordered or self–imposed population caps — resulting in many counties releasing certain inmates early due to lack of jail space.”

A 2006 “white paper” by the sheriffs association says 20 counties must “comply with maximum population capacity limits enforced by court order.”

Among them is Riverside, Calaveras, Sacramento, Yolo and Los Angeles, by far the most populous jail in the state.

Pazin’s county is also under such an order, called a consent decree.

But at the press conference Pazin downplayed his fellow sheriffs previous concerns about being forced to release inmates to make room for state transfers.

Of Brown’s realignment plan, he said: “At the end of the day, it’s the right thing at the right time.”

Pazin noted that while both Merced and Fresno County experience jail overcrowding, Fresno “literally had to release prisoners not because they didn’t have room but they didn’t have funds for additional personnel.”

In an April 7 letter to Brown, the state’s Judicial Council said it opposes transferring parole jurisdiction from the executive branch – the state prison system – to local courts.

“Shifting parole jurisdiction from the executive branch to the courts, resulting in an entirely new caseload, presents severe and complex challenges to the judicial branch,” wrote June Clark, senior attorney for the council’s Office of Governmental Affairs.

“Such a shift would bring challenges in the best of circumstances. In the context of the branch’s current fiscal circumstances, this shift will have a profound impact.”

Republicans, who oppose Brown’s proposal saying it endangers public safety, have refused to provide the two votes in the Assembly and Senate to put the issue of realignment and the tax extension before voters.

“The blood will be on the streets,” said GOP Assemblyman Jim Nielsen of Biggs and vice-chair of the lower house’s budget committee of the inmate shift.

Nielsen said the money in Brown’s plan only covers current expenses for sheriffs, jails and probation officers but won’t be enough when the number of added local inmates climbs – by his estimation – to 106,000 in two years.







Filed under: Budget and Economy

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