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Placer County realignment balancing public safety, rehab

Placer County supervisors to be asked to open new jail ?sooner rather than later?
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - With $6.2 million in funding this coming year to help implement Assembly Bill 109 justice system ?realignment,? Placer County supervisors were told Tuesday that a balancing act is in progress to ensure public safety while working to positively change the lives of offenders. Supervisors were given an update on how the state-mandated realignment effort is progressing in Placer County. One of the chief concerns that is emerging revolves around whether realignment will make a dent in the state?s widely acknowledged inability to keep felons from returning to prison after their release. Under realignment, many felons classified as non-violent are going to county care rather than state prison. Supervisors said that the county is addressing concerns by adding new law enforcement staff, increasing rehabilitation programs ? and moving toward completion of the new $105 million South Placer jail. Capt. George Malim, the county Sheriff?s Office jail commander, said that work on the jail is nearing completion and that sheriff?s representatives will return in August to outline how to open the facility to help with an increase in inmates. As part of realignment, the Sheriff?s Office is hiring nine correctional officers, 11 administrative clerks and one deputy sheriff, at a cost of $2.4 million this coming budget year starting in July. Malim said that local authorities are finding that maximum and medium- security facilities are facing the largest demand because of the flow of former state prisoners and parolees into the system. The jail has been on track for a July 2013 opening, with the 300,000 square-foot county facility in Roseville adding capacity for as many as 980 inmates to the current Placer County Jail in North Auburn?s 486. ?We will need to open the South Placer facility sooner rather than later,? Malim said. Chief Probation Officer Marshall Hopper outlined a program that currently supervises 3,200 adults on probation. Realignment has added 111 parolees to that total. Probation is adding eight deputy probation officers and an administrative clerk, at a cost next year of $1.1 million. Hopper said the result of realignment has meant restructuring for his office. ?Probation officers are taking on new roles, teaching classes for people in and out of custody, and providing offenders with the tools they need for success,? Hopper said. As part of the effort to help felons from returning to jail or prison, the board approved a number of contracts with substance-use treatment providers ? including large pacts with Aegis Medical Systems ($2.5 million) and Community Recovery Resources ($1.67 million). The county Health and Human Services Department is hiring two new staff members for offender screenings and assessments while putting the rest of $816,000 of state realignment funding into contracted services for substance abuse treatment programs. County statistics indicated 1,200 residents chose local treatment to work on their recovery last year. Sixty percent of all participants successfully participated in recovery, which is comparable to the state average. Watching from the audience at Tuesday?s meeting were members of the Justice Committee of Placer People of Faith Together. The jail watchdog group is working to improve conditions so that people who are released from Placer County jail can be successfully integrated into the community. ?California?s current practices, which have been in use for the past three decades, have not worked,? the group?s Alan Ford said. ?The recidivism rate is 70 percent. It?s time to implement evidence based programs for both those in custody and on probation. Please fund intervention and treatment programs so they have a chance to work.?