So far, about 40,000 felons have been affected by California's “realignment” program, which is aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons under federal court orders without, it's said, releasing dangerous criminals to prey upon the public, says Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters. Newly convicted offenders deemed to be nonthreatening have been diverted into local jails and probation, while parolees meeting similar criteria are being shifted into local supervision, financed by a stream of tax revenues. Gov. Jerry Brown hopes realignment will get the federal judges off his back, and also that the “realigned felons,” as some reports term them, don't do anything that would create a big public stink.
Both of those hopes are still just that. The judges are demanding further reductions in the prison population, and as realignment heads into its third year, critics are amassing anecdotal reports of new offenses – some of them fairly horrendous – by felons who would otherwise be behind state prison bars. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and several organizations, including the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and Advocates for Public Safety, are compiling the crime lists, hoping that their rising numbers and nature will spark a political backlash. They complain that under newly revised state penal law, serious crimes have been downgraded to make offenders eligible for county jail, parole or probation, and that their previous records have been disregarded. There could be a backlash, if someone had enough money to saturate the airwaves with accounts of the murders, rapes and other horrific crimes that the realigned felons are alleged to have committed.