By Nick Warner
June 30th marked the end of another fiscal year and the 17th time in the last two decades that the California state legislature missed its constitutional deadline to approve a balanced budget. Each year during budget-crunch time, the Governor is normally engaged in discussions with the Senate Pro Tem, the Assembly Speaker, and the party leaders of the senate and the assembly.
This year, however, there are several contributing factors that have led to delayed discussions and the usual stalemate, including a stated desire by legislative leadership to make the process more transparent as well as the introduction of multiple budget proposals by leadership that need to be reconciled before sending a final single version to the Governor for further negotiation.
So what does this all mean for corrections?
The governor and legislators are considering a number of proposals with the potential for significant impacts on corrections policy and associated facilities needs. Please note: the proposals listed below are still being negotiated and have not yet been enacted.
• Local facility construction — Proposal for $300 million in lease-revenue authority for local detention facility construction
• Design-build — Proposal to include budget language to amend existing law to allow counties to use design-build project delivery method in the construction of county jail that were authorized by AB 900.
• County Jail in lieu of prison — Proposal for offenders with a felony term of three years or less to serve time locally and would apply only to non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders, of which there are approximately 15,000. The state would provide counties with $11,500 on an ADP basis (per diverted offender) for probation services, drug courts, alternative custody, day reporting centers and other evidence-based programs. Funding would be through a block grant program.
• DJJ parole realignment - Proposal for the state to provide counties with $15,000 per shifted juvenile parolee on an ADP basis for probation monitoring. In fiscal 2010-11, approximately 500 wards will be under the jurisdiction of county probation. Once fully implemented, there would be approximately 1,700 juvenile parolees under county jurisdiction.
In addition to these proposals, the legislature has been considering a package of court-related items that would end the current one-day-per-month furlough as well as provide funding for other key court operations. The proposed package includes:
• One-time transfer of court construction balances ($98.4 million)
• One-time transfer of other court fund balances ($31.6 million)
• $10 court security fee increase ($40 million)
• Summary judgment fee increase from $250 to $500 ($6.2 million)
• Telephonic hearings fee of $20 ($6.0 million)
• $40 per citation fee on automated traffic enforcement ($28 million)
• First paper fee increase ($40, $40, $20) ($40.1 million)
• Parking fee surcharge increase of $3 ($10.5 million)
AB 900 Groundbreaking
On June 15th, the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation broke ground on its first AB 900-funded construction project at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. The facility consists of a 64-bed intermediate care mental health facility that will provide housing, treatment, and administrative services.
While this progress represents a positive move forward in addressing the issues raised in the Coleman vs. Schwarzenegger lawsuit, we are yet to see any groundbreaking on re-entry facilities in any of the counties that received phase one awards, although discussions indicate that construction could begin in fall of this year.
With the governor and one-third of the legislature slated to term out of office at the end of this year, the AB 900 red teams are in full gear to implement the local portions too. Led by state Department of General Services brass, the current red team is one the most impressive, motivated and creative teams I have seen in my years in and around state government. The commitment to turning dirt in counties like San Bernardino, Calaveras, Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo/San Benito and perhaps even San Diego is very impressive. If it is humanly and fiscally possible to get it done this year, the current team in place will find the way to make it happen. The Governor, the red Tteams, CDCR and the counties desperately want to capitalize on the market conditions and create enough momentum to ensure we continue to move on these important projects even in a new Administration and with a largely new legislature beginning in January.
Enhancing Corrections and Public Safety Operations through Video Technology
There are a number of bills in the legislature that reflect a growing interest among law enforcement, industry stakeholders, and state lawmakers to use video conferencing technology for criminal justice applications such as video visitation, video arraignment, and telemedicine. These applications can offer increased officer and inmate safety, courtroom efficiencies, and transportation and personnel cost savings.
During these difficult budget times, as state and local agencies look to deliver services more efficiently and in a manner that maintains defendants’ rights and public safety, discussions are being held about the role video technology plays. We anticipate these conversations will continue among all industry stakeholders. Toward this end, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court has established a formal working group to bring together law enforcement, judges, prosecutors and defense counsel to develop rules of court for enhanced used of this technology to create judicial efficiencies going forward.
Nick Warner is managing partner of California-based advocacy firm Warner & Pank LLC, a firm that represents several justice organizations, including California State Sheriffs’ Association, Chief Probation Officers of California, and the California Probation, Parole and Correctional Association.