Pauli Halstead: Nevada County Community Corrections Partnership needs more in-jail, post release treatment
Recently I became aware that each county in California is mandated to have a Community Corrections Partnership (CCP). These partnerships came about as a result of AB109 realignment legislation, which diverted thousands of inmates from state prisons to county jails and local probation departments beginning in 2011.
Since then California has sent more than $8 billion to counties to cover the costs of housing inmates in the jails and paying the costs of mandatory probation supervision.
The Nevada County Community Corrections Partnership Board is comprised by: Mike Ertola, chief of probation; Sheriff Shannan Moon, Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard; Tonya Clark, court operations director; District Attorney Cliff Newell, Public Defender Keri Klein, Ryan Gruver, Health & Human Services director; and county Supervisor Dan Miller.
“The mission and goal of the Nevada County Community Corrections Partnership is to comply with the Public Safety Realignment Act by adopting evidence-based, cost effective policies and practices that reduce recidivism, improve offender outcomes and promote public safety.”
In order to prevent overcrowding at the jail, CCPs have implemented “split-sentencing.” This means that part of the sentence is served in jail and part is served under mandated supervision. Also, the CCP has implemented a pretrial program. A pretrial program includes a “risk assessment”, (by the judge, DA, probation, and public defender), releasing eligible (low level) individuals into the community to be supervised by the probation department while awaiting their sentencing. The problem with this is, if they are homeless felons they are more than likely to reoffend while waiting, thus putting the community at risk.
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In addition to reducing recidivism and promoting public safety, the goal of realignment funding was to provide treatment in jail, and during probation. Curious about this I began requesting documents having to do with how the realignment funds are being spent. According to the annual revenue usages, posted on the Board of Supervisor’s website, the Apportionment Totals, 2011-2020 are $17,097,541. Of this, approximately $2 million (12%) has been spent on treatment, some of which includes recovery or transitional housing.
“Housing remains one of the top three criminogenic needs for Nevada County AB109 offenders. Individuals without stable housing are more likely to reoffend than those with stable housing,” the county’s plan states. To address this need, the Nevada County Probation Department contracts with other agencies to provide recovery and transitional housing to individuals through an assessment process. “The goal of recovery housing is to provide shelter but also to support the individual towards permanent housing opportunities.”
When I asked our Community Corrections Partnership how many AB109 repeat offenders have remained homeless each year since 2011, the answer was, “There are no records responsive to this question.” Since 2014, there were approximately 50 individuals assigned to transitional housing. There is no data on whether they moved on to permanent housing.
Since July 2019, the county forensic specialist collected data on 200 “unduplicated” homeless individuals released from jail. It is estimated that at least 30% are high-risk repeat offenders. Even when accessing drug or mental health treatment they remain homeless, thus contributing to recidivism. To reduce crime in the community they need a stable place to live. The fact that they are released to their illegal camps and criminal lifestyle is having a negative impact on the community and it comes at a high financial cost.
In 2012, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said each person experiencing homelessness costs the taxpayer about $40,000 a year. With a Point-in Time Count of 410 homeless individuals, this puts the yearly cost of homelessness in Nevada County at over $16 million per year.
One goal of realignment was to reduce California’s high recidivism rate. Our CCP puts the local recidivism rate at 14%. They also defined recidivism as “conviction” of a new felony or misdemeanor committed within three years of release from custody or committed within three years of placement on supervision for a previous criminal conviction. A 2017 Public Policy Institute study, “Realignment and Recidivism in California,” revealed that 71.9% of individuals were re-arrested (2.6% higher than before realignment) and 56.4% were reconvicted, (2.4% higher).
In Nevada County it is evident that high-risk and homeless felons are continually being released back into the community without sufficient in-jail or post release treatment or a safe place to live. This makes the job of our police departments and probation officers really tough, plus it is having negative impacts to the community.
The Community Corrections Partnership must budget for more in-jail and post release treatment. Also, there needs to be budgeting for post-release shelter. A solution would be a sanctioned outdoor emergency shelter program, instead of releasing probationers back to their illegal camps.
Pauli Halstead lives in Nevada City.
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