Assembly Bill 109, Public Safety Realignment Act, supports the philosophy that incarceration is not the best solution. Instead, rehabilitation saves lives and is more cost effective. Governor Brown stated, “Cycling these offenders through state prisons wastes money, aggravates crowded conditions, thwarts rehabilitation, and impedes local law enforcement.” Realignment has the potential for AADAP to play a role in reducing the recidivism rate and giving low-level offenders an opportunity to seek drug treatment services. With the nation and state politics tackling the arduous task to reform to our correctional system, we are waiting to see the reality of this change.
The state made a huge move by no longer imprisoning low-level, non-violent offenses. The state is separating themselves from local counties in dealing with these individuals. State funding is being shifted to local level and asking LA County to find new alternative ways to reduce recidivism. On October 1st, 2011, the first implementation of transferring low offenders from State prisons to local counties began. It is estimated that 9,000 low-level offenders will be transferred to local counties for this year. Of those 9,000, it is projected over 40% are drug offenders.
At the California State level, government officials are telling the substance abuse field that they need organizations like AADAP. At the annual California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives (CADA) Conference in Sacramento, guest speakers, Diane Cummins, Special Advisor to the Governor on State and Local Realignment and Mathew Cate, Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation were the assigned speakers. Both speakers stressed that substance abuse disorder (SUD) treatment will need to play a larger role and that these services will reduce the over all cost in the prison system in the long run. Mathew Cate’s discussed his vision to encourage a cultural change within the prison system and to rehabilitate inmates to prevent returnees. He wants to see prison employees play a direct role in encouraging rehabilitative services. Cates asked CADA members to be patient and acknowledged that the system is beastly and awkward in making vast change. It was refreshing to hear State officials owning up to the over crowding issues.
The impact is slowly evolving at AADAP. In effort to create and implement these services, the collaborating agencies have held stakeholder meetings. The Probation Department and the Sherriff Department are expected to solicit providers in the near future through the process of a Request for Proposal for specific services. To provide a complete and comprehensive approach, AB 109 will require a collaborative effort from Law Enforcement, Probation, Parole and Treatment Providers. The alternative services being targeted are transitional housing, job placement and drug and alcohol treatment. AADAP has been given a revenue stream to begin serving these low-level offenders, but only few clients have been served or were referred to us. However, we have recently seen an increase in enrollments in March and April.
We’ve begun to see momentous shift in the way the correctional system is run. Actual resources are being shifted all the way down to a local agency like AADAP. However, we haven’t seen a real change yet. The drug and alcohol field is waiting to see an actual shift of the resources to the health and treatment services field versus resources towards incarceration services. A cultural change in rehabilitating low-level offenders is much needed. There are yet many barriers to overcome.
If you are interested on more background on AB 109, please visit the CDCR website at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/realignment/. For LA County level information, you can go to the LA CCP website at http://www.ccjcc.info/cms1_164818.asp. The ACLU has completed an in depth review on AB 109 at http://www.aclu.org/.