District attorney updates supervisors on proposed future of Day Reporting Center

The reality of a new Day Reporting Center (DRC) is edging closer, according to District Attorney David Hollister in a presentation before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 22.

Hollister was before supervisors by special invitation from Supervisor Lori Simpson.

A temporary home for a new DRC is in the works, with a permanent home planned in the old correctional facility once the new jail is built, he reminded supervisors. Several locations have been considered, but location is very important, Hollister explained.

The DRC opened in 2012 and moved into its Harbison Street location in 2014, according to Hollister. “The DRC was created by the DA’s office and grew to be a success under the great work of Alternative Sentencing Manager Stephanie Tanaka and her staff,” he said.

“The DRC was both a program and location and demonstrated its worth by consistently having a recidivism rate of under 20 percent compared with over 60 percent for the state,” Hollister said.

“While originally, and at times, we had tremendous support from the Probation and Behavioral Health departments, that support ended in 2017 and the program could no longer be maintained without the necessary services Probation and Behavioral Health provided,” he said.

ASP closed that program in 2017, but Tanaka and her staff continued to work with qualifying offenders.

Since closing, post release offenders who would have used services offered at the DRC have been without that base operation.  And the negative results of not having a home base shows, Hollister told supervisors.

Recidivism — the challenge of helping keep offenders from returning to jail or prison — is higher without the DRC and the programs it offered, Hollister said.

Originally located just two streets away from the Plumas County Courthouse, the program was considered quite successful, Hollister told supervisors recently.

In fact, at one time ASP/DRC attracted much attention from others throughout the state charged with planning their own programs to meet new state requirements.

For fiscal year 2018-19, ASP received $134,000, up from $65,000 the previous year, to prepare for another DRC program.

As part of his presentation to supervisors, Hollister touched on some of the legal changes that have taken place as California attempts to move away from a tough on crime stance to finding ways to reduce recidivism and solve the overcrowded prison situation.

Proposition 47

Billed as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, Prop. 47 was voter-approved in 2014.

It reclassified certain theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

It also allowed offenders serving felony sentences for what had become reclassified as misdemeanor offenses to petition the courts for re-sentencing. According to the California Courts, California superior courts received more than 200,000 petitions for re-sentencing or reclassification during the first 13 months after voter approval.

And finally, Prop. 47 allowed offenders who had already completed their felony conviction sentences that would now qualify as misdemeanors to apply for reclassification having the felony reduced to a misdemeanor.

Under Prop. 47 some types of drug possession felonies were reduced to misdemeanors, but not all.

It also required that sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging or writing bad checks if the amount involved $950 or less become misdemeanors.

However, offenders whose offenses also included previous convictions for sex offenses including rape, child molestation and other sex-related offenses were not eligible to petition the courts for a change from a felony status in the areas that were recently changed. Attempted murder, solicitation to commit murder, assault with a machine gun on an officer, or other serious or violent crimes were also on the list of serious offenses that kept offenders from reapplying, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Proposition 57

Prop. 57 came along in 2016, Hollister told Supervisors.

This proposition allowed some offenders to serve shorter prison sentences than what was originally decided. It is up to the state parole board to determine which offenders are suitable for earlier release. At that time, then Governor Brown believed the change would make prisons and the public safer by giving inmates an incentive to improve themselves while incarcerated.

While it focuses more heavily on those offenders who have served time in jail, ASP helps provide some of those incentives to offenders both inside and outside jail.

ASP testing, education, some college classes, GED preparation, computers, cooking classes and other programs were designed to help offenders begin the process of self-improvement behind bars.

The current size of the correctional facility in Plumas County has limitations to what can be offered to offenders. Only one room, the library, is available for most opportunities. The new facility will change all of this, allowing for more classes and space for hands-on programs.

The DRC featured a one-stop shopping approach where behavioral health, self-improvement and other programs were made possible.

Hollister said it was and still is important to have the DRC within easy reach of the courthouse. This is particularly important if a judge sends an offender directly to the DRC to begin court-ordered requirements. In this case there’s less chance that the offender will forget, get sidetracked or put off beginning requirements.

With the reopening of the DRC, this will again be an important consideration, he explained.

Prop. 57, along with others, was also designed to help overcrowded conditions in California’s prisons.

Assembly Bill 208

Approved by Governor Brown in October 2017, this allows for a pretrial diversion program.

According to the bill, “It would make a defendant qualified for the pretrial diversion program if there is no evidence of a contemporaneous (things that exist or occur at the same time) violation relating to narcotics or restricted dangerous drugs other than a violation of the offense that qualifies him or her for diversion …” if he or she meets certain criteria, according to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest on the bill.

Under this program, the offender or rather defendant could plead not guilty and waive his or her right to a jury trial. If the individual doesn’t do well in the diversion program or is convicted of another specified crime, then criminal proceedings continue.

Assembly Bill 1810

Signed into law just last year, this bill allows offenders who are mentally ill to complete a mental health program rather than serve jail time. “This option is generally made available to people who have committed nonviolent misdemeanors due to some sort of mental disorder or instability,” according to the bill.

“While I don’t agree with many of these changes,” Hollister told Supervisors, “these are the rules.”

Background

It all started in 2011 with the passage of Assembly Bill 109.

California voters put their faith into a new realignment program that changed a number of ways the state dealt with some offenders. Certain classes of less serious felonies no longer went on to state prison but were to remain in county jails. These felonies didn’t change how courts looked at serious crimes including violent crimes or sex crimes. Those individuals convicted of a serious crime could still look to serving time in a state prison.

By turning certain crimes into less serious crimes, those convicted were going to spend time in the county jail generally where the crime took place.

With the focus put on counties for these lesser crimes, local agencies including the sheriff’s office, probation, district attorney, the courts and others were charged with designing new programs to handle these offenders. One of the terms that became familiar with these officials was recidivism. State officials wanted local governments to find ways to reduce it. Preventing or slowing the revolving door of offenders returning to jail or prison began a main objective.

Armed with funding made available through AB 109, local officials set about forming the Community Corrections Partnership headed by the Plumas County Probation Chief.

During the past eight years, a number of acting chiefs have come and gone. Currently Probation Chief Erin Metcalf heads CCP.

While each department has had a role in CCP, it’s been the DA’s office, in partnership with others in various ways, that has come up with the most meaningful programs that help reduce recidivism.

Hollister told supervisors that he is optimistic that all CCP partners can work together for the benefit of the offenders and the communities they serve.

Without the DRC directly servicing offenders, crime has gone up. The court calendars are packed and most of the cases are with repeat offenders.

“I am cautiously optimistic we will be able to reinstate this incredible program with the continued and strong support of our superior court, sheriff, defense bar, Behavioral Health Department and other public safety partners,” Hollister concluded.

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