Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Fearmongering about Realignment in L.A. County

with one comment

To follow up on my post about realignment from yesterday, here’s an article from the Los Angeles Times quoting various supervisors predicting doom and gloom:

“It’s a system that’s meant to fail,” [Supervisor Michael] Antonovich said, “and who is it going to fail? Every neighborhood, every community where these people are going to be running around….It’s a Pandora’s box. It’s the bar scene — a violent bar scene that you saw in ‘Star Wars’ — except they’re all crazy and nuts.”

Antonovich said it is likely that Los Angeles County will run out of jail beds unless it “uses other models of supervisions such as electronic monitoring, work furloughs, weekenders and GPS tracking.”

“It’s irresponsible for us to turn around and dump these [prisoners] into our communities with an ankle bracelet and hope they don’t re-offend,” Antonovich said. Without finding a way to increase prison time, Antonovich said, “I believe we’ll have a spike in crime.” 

Well, I hope we can all react to this kind of rhetoric with the eye-rolling that it merits. It was also “irresponsible” for the state to operate a prison system that warehoused men and women triple-stacked in bunk beds and failed to treat their medical needs, and then fail to remedy the problem in the course of decades of litigation, which is why the counties have now been put in this position. It was also “irresponsible” for long-serving L.A. County officials — like Supervisor Antonovich! — to have long tolerated a local jail system that a federal judge described as “inconsistent with basic human values,” a system which because it is already overcrowded will now have difficulty accommodating the changes to state law.

As for the hordes of “these people” who are now going to be “running around” acting “all crazy and nuts” — well, keep in mind that when we talk about realignment, we are talking about people who would have been doing very short state prison stints instead going to county jail to do those stints. They would have been back on the streets of L.A. in a few months anyway under the current system. And meanwhile, many of them are already on the streets right now!

Actually Antonovich is right that L.A. County Jail can ill afford an influx of new inmates. The kernel of truth in his comments is that realignment does place a lot of new pressure upon county institutions, and lots of experts are concerned that the state isn’t backing up that mandate with adequate funding and administrative support. But Antonovich’s rhetoric is not helpful — realignment is happening, so it’s the job of local officials now to figure out how to implement it safely. Unfortunately, local officials have an incentive to play up the problems with realignment instead, because then any and all crime after October 1 can be blamed not on local policing and governance, but on the state.

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  1. I am working on a project about overcrowded prisons in California and throughout the whole semester I have been reading articles about overcrowded prisons and the solutions that the state has found etc. What I found real interesting about this blog is that it is about Los Angeles specifically. I also read an article in Los Angeles Times and I just can not believe the solution that the state came up with in order to reduce the population in prison facilities. I mean why on earth would they remove prisoners and place them into local prisons where there is much more less space there. They are local for a reason, because they are smaller than the other prisons. I believe that the state was acting too fast just to get started on such a tough mandate by the Supreme Court. However, I believe that this is only going to lead them into more and more and more problems because the problem is only going to repeat all over again, but at a state level. In addition, I mean once the overcrowding problem gets to the local level what will they do then? Try to place them in detention centers? I simply think that this is ridiculous I mean why not look for another alternative to solve the problem. That way they will avoid saving time themselves and having to deal with the problem of overcrowding or at least for a while. No, in Los Angeles this is even more ridiculous because it is such a big city and their local prisons are already full to their capacity and now they have to try to figure out a way where they can put all these incoming prisoners. The mayor of the city is already really concerned because he truly does not what he is going to do since the Los Angeles county prison is already really full. I mean regardless of what they do they will have to put in money, so why not put money somewhere where they know they won’t have to be dealing with it all over again. For example interest groups like California Correctional Peace Officers have proposed things such as private prisons where the inmates actually stay busy and do work out int he community under supervision of course. In addition, having them do things like these is what keeps them busy and thinking about their past and they truly do change for the better. Unlike, if they were going back to their typical communities no one really knows if they will fall back on their old habits like before. I simply just feel really sketchy about the whole fact that they are not being tracked down.

    Melissa Aguiar

    December 1, 2011 at 7:22 am

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