Law enforcement supports change to Realignment Act

Law enforcement supports change to Realignment Act

INDIO, Calif. - A move from the State to ease prison overcrowding is forcing local law enforcement to chase after the same criminals over and over again.   Friday Coachella Valley Police Chiefs along with the Riverside County Sheriff voiced their support for changes to the state law known as AB 109.                   

"Folks know that they can commit a crime, they can violate and they can get a way with it," said Assemblyman Manuel Perez. 

Lawmakers passed AB 109 in 2011 to help save the state money and ease crowding in prisons by letting lower-level offenders serve their sentences in county jails.

"In essence the state passed the buck onto local law enforcement and local county jail systems,"said Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff.

However, many jails were already full. A federal court ordered more than half of the state's county jails, including Riverside, to reduce overcrowding.

"It's like the second floor collapsing on the first floor, it's damaged a lot of the county operations," said Sheriff Sniff.

That left the county no choice but to release some criminals early.

"We quite literally end up keeping the worst of the worst behind bars and we release the best of the worst and that is unfortunate right now that we've turned into a complete lack of a deterrent on low level offenses," said Sheriff Sniff. 

"They commit a crime, we arrest them, take them to jail and then they are back out," said Palm Springs Police Chief Alberto Franz.

It's affects not only law enforcement, but it's also backing up the courts. 

"If somebody is shop lifting from target every two weeks and not receiving any punishment for it, really we are not meeting our public goals of protecting the community," said Assistant District Attorney Sean Lafferty.

Right now the Indio jail is under construction, the plan is to add about 1300 more beds, drastically expanding the number of inmates that can come to this jail, however it won't be open and ready until 2017.

That's why Assemblyman Manuel Perez, who voted for the original law AB 109, sponsored a bill (AB 1449) to make changes right away.

"Anyone who has been sentenced for more than 3 years should not be going to a county jail but a prison," said Perez.      

Perez proposes a limit on sentences served in county jail, mandatory prison time for technical parole violators and requiring criminal history taken into account before releasing an offender early. 

"Certainly there are going to be some out there who maybe feel emboldened by the lack of punishment," said Lafferty.

The bill still has a long way to go before it becomes law, but Perez is confident he can get it passed.  It's expected to be introduced into committee later this month. 

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