Under continuing pressure to reduce its prison and jail populations, California is expanding alternatives that hold offenders accountable, are cost-effective, and do not harm public safety. At a Sacramento event last week, PPIC researcher Brandon Martin summarized a new PPIC report about the potential impact of this expansion. His presentation was followed by panel discussion in which state and local corrections officials talked about their own experience and provided examples of success.
Jeremy Verinsky, undersheriff of Santa Cruz County, said his department has long had a work release program— having offenders clean up graffiti in county parks, for example. The county has increasingly paired work release with home detention and electronic monitoring since corrections realignment began in 2011. Offenders in Santa Cruz are required to be involved in programs based on their needs and risk factors, Verinksy said.
“We aren’t putting people out on a monitor so they can stay home and play Xbox all day,” he said.
Carol Paris of the Sacramento County Probation Department says her department has expanded its use of adult day reporting centers, which provide resources for offenders. Asked how her department handles probation violations, she said the strategy is to engage early. Intake officers visit prisons to meet with inmates before their release to talk about specific needs and housing issues. Offenders are also transported directly from custody to the probation office for assessment—an effort “to counteract those days of the person being released at one o’clock in the morning,” she said.
Robin Harrington, chief deputy warden of the Female Offenders Programs and Services/Special Housing Mission at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, described the department’s alternative custody programs. Eligible offenders can apply to serve their sentences—supervised and electronically monitored—at home, in a private alternative custody program, or in a training and employment program.