Coming up to Speed on Realignment
I am new to CSAC, but I’ve been in and around Sacramento for a long time and I am familiar with at least some of the issues on the county radar screen. I was aware that California was “realigning” public safety services from the state to the counties, but I have to admit, I had not followed that issue very closely. Since becoming CSAC’s Communications Coordinator, exactly a week before the first anniversary of realignment, I have had to come up to speed on it fairly quickly.
What strikes me most about this issue is how divisive it has become and how so much of the rhetoric has been, well, less than accurate. In some of the anniversary news coverage, those opposed to realignment blamed it for crimes that were committed by people who would have been released from custody with or without realignment. Much of the coverage also ignored that realignment helps the state comply with federal court rulings that required California to reduce its prison population. Without realignment, California would have had to release tens of thousands of state prison inmates early – with no funding and no services provided to them. Now, under realignment, they are serving out their sentences, being supervised and receiving treatment and services under county jurisdiction.
There are several news pieces that ignore the hyperbole and lay out the realignment issue very well; notably, the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. If you need to come up to speed on this issue quickly — as I did, I would urge you to read these two pieces.
I am sure that realignment isn’t perfect, no new program is after only a year. But it does seem like the foundation put in place over the last year offers a base that can be built on. Constitutionally protected funding for realignment remains the key missing element.
Gregg Fishman is the Communications Coordinator for the California State Association of Counties.
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