Fearmongering about Realignment in L.A. County
“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.