In my professional life, I spend a lot of time thinking about Realignment, which is a policy that reconfigures California’s correctional system. The briefest way to describe it is that since October 2011, individuals who commit relatively low-level crimes are sent to jail (a county-level institution) rather than to state prison, where many would have gone in the past. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation describes Realignment this way:
In 2011, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Assembly Bill (AB) 109 and AB 117, historic legislation to enable California to close the revolving door of low-level inmates cycling in and out of state prisons. It is the cornerstone of California’s solution to the U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce the number of inmates in the state’s 33 prisons to 137.5 percent of original design capacity.
I’ll leave aside the remarkable fact that we’re aiming for 137.5% (!) of designed capacity and skip ahead to the part that I’m working on: The result of AB109 Realignment (“AB109” for short) is that California counties are having to plan for incarcerating, and later reintegrating, a new population of folks. They’re having to get all sorts of county departments and offices to talk to each other and to community organizations to plan for pre-release and reentry services because they have a mandate to prevent recidivism. They’re also having to create plans for tracking their successes and shortcomings in providing reentry services, which requires data system planning and sharing. It’s incredibly complicated, and still in its early stages, and yet in many ways hopeful because AB109 is challenging counties to figure out whether and how recidivsm can be prevented through services like job and housing placement assistance and access to mental health and substance abuse preventions services. I feel lucky to be consulting for a local county, helping all the players figure out whether they’re adhering to the plan they set out for themselves. There are many challenges, but all the participants seem to be aiming at improving outcomes for people who are leaving jail. Tomorrow I’m running a focus group for recently-release probationers. I’m very curious to hear what they think of the new reentry system and whether they think it’s on the right track. So far all my exposure is on the provider (public and private) side.