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County already feeling impact of inmate transfer

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer


Plumas County’s public safety system is already feeling the effects of the state’s Assembly Bill 109 inmate realignment.

The number of prisoners and parolees in the county’s corrections system has been steadily rising since AB 109 went into effect Oct. 1.

Inmates considered to be “non-violent,” who were formerly sent to state prisons, are now the responsibility of the counties.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved a plan and budget to deal with the influx of felons.

By a unanimous vote, the supervisors approved a plan by the Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) that outlines how it will spend the scant $264,616 allotted for the job. The board also approved the CCP’s action plan crafted during 15 meetings over the last six months.

“We put a lot of time and energy into developing this plan,” Chief Probation Officer Sharon Reinert said.

Reinert outlined the plan for the board. And the supervisors acknowledged the amount of work that went into it.

“It was a well-written plan: very easy to walk through to see the big picture and then breaking it down,” Supervisor Sherrie Thrall told Reinert moments after the board approved it. “It’s really a lean budget. So I can see that you have spent a lot of time on it.”

The CCP needed the board’s approval so it could begin spending the budgeted money to help implement the plan.

But the money from the state is likely a fraction of the actual costs, which the CCP has projected could be several times more than $264,616.

“Because the numbers are so much greater than what was projected by the state, they are looking at redoing the budget,” Reinert said. “Hopefully there will be more money coming. But we don’t know for sure.”

Already the county is handling more than twice the number of felons that the state projected it would by this time.

Reinert said her department was supposed to have about five additional parolees from AB 109. The probation department got its 13th parolee last week.

“This is that population that would ordinarily be placed on parole. So the state would have been handling them a year ago,” District Attorney David Hollister said. “Now they are being sent to Sharon (Reinert) in our county, and Sharon is designated to provide basically parole-type services.”

The county jail is also filling up faster than projected. Hollister and Sheriff Greg Hagwood said they expected no more than three additional inmates by now. But there are seven.

Hagwood said Plumas isn’t the only county that is being overwhelmed.

“Other counties are experiencing up to 300 percent above what the state said they would be getting,” Hagwood said. “Last week I met with other sheriffs in the Bay Area and we had a representative from (California Department of Corrections) who was on the receiving end of a measurable amount of criticism because the numbers they are projecting are completely inaccurate.

“I know Contra Costa County was supposed to have I think 27 (additional inmates and parolees) and they’ve got two or three hundred.”

Reinert said finding housing for parolees has been challenging.

“Out of the 13 (parolees), I believe five of them are homeless. One of the guys is living in a car in Chester in the wintertime,” Reinert said. “We don’t have the funding available right now to hook him up with a local resource so that he is not homeless. He has a job (in Chester), but he has no place to live.”

Reinert said her department has been contacting local motels to arrange housing for the first month after prisoners are released. She said several motels have been receptive to the plan.

“They (parolees) are going to have to get their act together within a month. But it will at least help them secure housing for a month,” Reinert said. “We have reassured (motel owners) that probation is going to be in there regularly. It’s not that they are going to be in there for up to 30 days and there won’t be any monitoring or supervision — there will be.”

Reinert said her department has hired a probation assistant to help parolees find the services they need.

Hollister emphasized the CCP’s plan to handle the influx of felons is “a work in progress.”

“We tried to put the bones in place that we can build around. And I think we’ve done an OK job on that,” Hollister said. “About a year from now, we are going to look up and I believe that (the) jail is going to be filled to the point that we are going to have to make alternative choices about incarceration with the lower level offenders.

“We can’t put them in jail for 10 days. So we really are going to have to add to the plan as we go forward,” Hollister said. “What do we do with them? Do we have them do community service? Those are things we are going to have to build into this as we move along.”


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