Nearly $1.1 million approved to assist offender programs in Plumas

Some Plumas County departments and special programs are receiving more than $1 million in Public Safety Realignment funds for this fiscal year 2019-2020.

Plumas County Probation Chief Erin Metcalf, as head of the Community Corrections Partnership, requested the Board of Supervisors approve the new budget for $1,079,242,32.

Supervisors unanimously approved the budget at their Aug. 20 meeting.

This year’s CCP budget is slightly higher than last year’s, according to information Metcalf provided.

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In fiscal year 2018-2019 county departments and agencies requested $1,060,444. At the end of the year slightly more than $121,000 was left unspent from the amount originally allocated.

Requests and comparisons

This year’s requests included $149,530, from the District Attorney’s Office, up from $134,008 last year. The department, which includes the Alternative Sentencing Program, spent $76,528.70 of its request. More than $57,479 was left unspent. The request was approved in full by the CCP committee for this fiscal year.

The Sheriff’s Office requested and received $484,185 for this year. That amount is slightly up from $469,678 last year. The department spent its entire funding request.

Alliance for Workforce held steady with its request for $25,000.

Plumas Crisis Intervention and Resource Center had three separate requests. The Pathways project requested $50,000, down from $61,000 last year; the Ohana House for $45,000, the same as last year; and DAD 24/7 asked for $18,000, up from $16,824 last year.

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The Quincy Literacy Program requested $25,874, down from last year’s request for $31,733. That program only received $18,000 because it hadn’t spent $13,811 of its previous request.

And finally, Behavioral Health requested $73,043, up from last year’s request of $67,475. However, last year the program didn’t spend $15,485 of its request.

The total requested was $1,087,116.32.

Metcalf didn’t say how much of the reserve funding was left after this year’s allocations, but she did say it was getting close to the red zone.

Programs

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said she understood why the District Attorney and Behavioral Health didn’t spend all of its allocated funding last year, but she didn’t understand why the literacy program didn’t spend its allocation.

“Maybe we don’t need to allocate so much,” Thrall said. “Did the committee look at this?” she asked Metcalf.

“We most certainly discussed it,” Metcalf responded.

Supervisor Lori Simpson explained why the literacy program didn’t get the full amount it requested. In the past, the program had two instructors going into the correctional facility to teach various programs. While one of those instructors was available, the second position was vacated in 2017. The program couldn’t find someone to replace that instructor, according to Simpson during the supervisors’ meeting.

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The literacy program provides MRT or Moral Recognition Therapy in the correctional center. It has also offered basic literacy classes to inmates and the public. Last year it served 160 persons.

While library director Lindsey Fuchs argued that additional funding was necessary to continue serving post-release inmates, CCP representative Bill Abramson explained that Plumas Unified School District just launched its own adult education program.

Fuchs explained there are differences between the two adult education programs. She said that CCP funding would allow the continuation of MRT programming upon an inmate’s release.

According to background material from the August CCP meeting, District Attorney David Hollister asked about staffing issues with the literacy program. He said that classes should be consistently offered in the jail. And if funded at the same spending level as the previous year, it would cover the MRT training and not staff members.

The Alliance for Workforce program is the only one in the 13-county Nor-Tec area that receives CCP funding. It provides soft-skill and 21st century workshops. Its entire $25,000 grant is spent in Plumas County, according to CCP background material.

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PCIRC’s Pathways program provides transitional housing for released offenders in local motels, with rental, utilities and deposit assistance. The program served 117 individuals last year, according to PCIRC Executive Director Johanna Downey.

PCIRC’s Ohana House served 18 clients and one victim last year. Clients in the program are sometimes also involved with probation and social services.

PCIRC’s 24/7 Dad program is for the criminal justice system. Classes are now court ordered.

Funding

CCP and other similar programs throughout the state, receive realignment funding from the state.

Plumas County’s CCP has a reserve, but each year it has been drawn down to meet local funding requests to serve programs for pre- and post-release offenders.

“We anticipate $825,000 in CCP revenue,” explained Hollister following an Aug. 7 CCP meeting where this year’s funding requests were discussed. “To maintain any type of responsible reserve next year we will have to cut about $262,000 to balance the CCP budget.”

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“This is a scenario I have warned about for the last few years,” Hollister explained. “After this year, our fund balance is gone.”

Hollister told members of CCP at that meeting that in the future he believes the Board of Supervisors would need to meet some of the cost obligations.

Support necessary from county

“In 2011 AB 109 and its companion bills changed over 500 criminal laws in California,” according to District Attorney David Hollister. “These changes not only shifted many responsibilities from the state to our counties but also mandated a different approach to low-level offenders. The failure of a county to adapt to this ‘sea change’ carries the very real risk of clogging our courts, hampering our pursuit of justice and making our county less healthy and less safe.”

“To meet these changes the state legislature has provided funding to our county which is set by the Board of Supervisors at the recommendation of the Community Corrections Partnership (a committee chaired by the Chief Probation Officer),” Hollister explained.

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This year Plumas County expects to receive an allocation of $825,000. The law directs this funding is to go to new programs to assist counties in meeting the responsibilities of AB109. These new programs are things like a Day Reporting Center, Drug Court, Early Intervention and Evidence-based programming. The law is equally clear these funds should not be used to supplant funding for existing obligations.”

“We have and are engaging in many programs meeting these new demands,” Hollister continued to explain. “Early assessments through pretrial release, a day reporting center, housing, employment assistance, mental health services, to name a few, have all been or are being utilized with a high degree of success.”

“This year, during the CCP budgeting process, we received requests for obligations existing before AB109 far beyond anticipated revenue,” Hollister said.

“Responsibilities such as maintaining a jail or supervising probationers are fundamental obligations unchanged by AB109 yet they now amount to nearly two-thirds of the CCP budget. I believe funding for these fundamental obligations should come from the general fund and not from CCP revenue,” Hollister stated.

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“To use CCP funds not for their intended use but, rather, to lessen the county’s contribution to meet basic governmental obligations flies against the spirit of Ab109 and creates a scenario where new and necessary approaches to combat recidivism by low level offenders cannot exist.”

“I am not, nor have I been, a fan of AB109 and the recent radical changes Sacramento has made to California’s criminal justice system. Whether I like them or not they are reality and it is imperative we, as a county, continue to adapt to these changes with effective, responsible programs that make Plumas County as safe and just as possible,” Hollister concluded.