Santa Clara County, Calif., is developing a reputation for trying criminal justice policies that critics blast as risky but supporters call cutting-edge, reports the San Jose Mercury News. From its controversial stand against a federal policy on detaining jailed illegal immigrants to its open-arms, welcome-home stance toward newly freed state prisoners, Santa Clara County has struck the kind of permissive chord that puts Fox News pundits in a lather.
“The county is shaping up to be one of the most progressive in the state on reforming the criminal justice system,” said Allen Hopper, police practices director of the ACLU of Northern California. To be sure, prosecutors and judges in Santa Clara County are still filing stiffer charges and putting people behind bars longer than in San Francisco. But on the immigration front, the Board of Supervisors late last month approved a policy that made Santa Clara County only the second jurisdiction in the nation to defy U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. Chicago’s Cook County was the first. Now, the Santa Clara County sheriff releases illegal immigrants with a history of committing serious or violent crimes onto the streets unless ICE pays to detain them.