Two years into a major California redistribution of responsibility for convicted felons, Los Angeles County officials are struggling to deal with a recalcitrant group of former state inmates who keep absconding and cycling through an overcrowded jail system, reports the Los Angeles Times. California’s realignment program, adopted to reduce state prison overcrowding, is redirecting tens of thousands of felons convicted of nonviolent crimes to local jails to serve their time. Local probation officials, instead of state parole agents, now monitor most nonviolent convicts exiting prison. More than 18,000 ex-state prisoners have come under L.A. County oversight since October 2011. About 10,000 remain under Probation Department supervision and, as of last month, almost 20 percent of those had outstanding arrest warrants for absconding.
Though hundreds of millions of dollars in increased state funding is going to the county for realignment, local officials say it’s not enough to lock up, rehabilitate and keep track of the expanded population of criminals. They contend that most of those the state called non-serious offenders have been assessed by local law enforcement to be high risks for committing new crimes. County agencies are struggling to get the new, more hardened group of offenders to report to their probation officers and stick with mental health and substance abuse treatment. “That’s the labor-intensive piece of all this … trying to chase those folks all down,” county Supervisor Don Knabe said. One measure of the challenge has been the use of a new tactic to manage repeat offenders. Under realignment, local probation officers can, without a court hearing, jail felons who violate the terms of their release for “flash” incarcerations of up to 10 days. Previously, parole officers often sent violators back to state prison — a costly and some argue ineffective punishment for nonviolent offenders.