California prison realignment to put more low-level offenders on streets

By Tracey Kaplan – Mercury News – Posted: 09/25/2011 06:31:25 AM PDT To trim its bulging prison population and cut costs, California is about to gamble on a strategy no other state has tried — unload the responsibility for punishing and rehabilitating thousands of nonviolent felons from the state prison system to local communities. The state’s new massive “realignment” plan — which begins Saturday — amounts to a dramatic retreat from California’s costly, tough-on-crime, lock-’em-up approach. No matter how slowly the new strategy unfolds, it will ultimately put more low-level offenders on the streets sooner than they would be under the current rules, either because they are enrolled in rehabilitation programs outside the jail walls, or are serving shorter periods in jail or on post-release supervision. “It’s the biggest change in the criminal justice system in 35 years,” since the state switched to imposing fixed-term sentences on most crimes, said Judge Phil Pennypacker, who presides over the criminal division of Santa Clara County Superior Court. Still, the state has been quick to assure the public that switching low-risk convicts from prison blues to county jail jumpsuits will not…[For full story: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_18974489?nclick_check=1 ]

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California prison realignment to put more low-level offenders on streets