A great story by the Chron’s Marisa Lagos explains the realignment. The piece is a must-read in its entirety and I highly recommend it. I want to highlight one pierce people may not have been attentive to: The important role probation officers will play.
Realignment is not just a numbers game. Under the new law, counties have been given new legal tools meant to help them get at the root issues that lead to criminal behavior.
Most of those tools consist of increased flexibility for judges, prosecutors and probation officers in deciding how to punish a person.
For example, in the past, if a drug offender failed to meet the terms of his probation, the only real option a probation officer had was to send him back to court, where a judge would consider whether to ship him back to prison or jail – a long, ambiguous process that resulted in delayed punishment.
But research shows that open-ended, uncertain punishments do not encourage criminals to change their behavior. What does, according to experts, are swift and certain sanctions – such as a tactic known as “flash incarceration,” in which an offender is jailed for a day or two almost immediately after violating the terms of their probation.
Under realignment, a probation officer could make this decision without sending the person back to court. And, the probation officer can tailor the punishment to an offender’s work schedule, so they don’t lose their job.
Judges will also now be allowed to mandate a split sentence – combining jail time with at-home detention, drug abuse treatment or parenting classes, for example.
Marisa Lagos, Keramet Reiter, and I will participate in an hour-long conversation about the California correctional crisis on KALW tomorrow at 7pm. Tune in, call in with your questions, and join the conversation.