California Prepares to Shift Prisoners

In the coming weeks, California will begin shifting thousands of prisoners from state correctional facilities to county custody and supervision under a state law that takes effect October 1. To help the state’s 58 counties prepare for this massive criminal justice realignment, four California-based foundations and the Public Welfare Foundation sponsored a conference last week that brought together close to 500 law enforcement and county leaders to hear about some proven strategies for success. 

“It’s not just a question of locking up,” said Gov. Jerry Brown in his keynote speech at the one day conference. “It’s a matter of supervision. It’s a matter of helping people straighten out their lives. The goal is public safety, living within our scarce means, and recognizing that the people who are closest to the problem, who are most affected by it, can provide the most flexible, the most sensitive and the most common sense response.” 

In an effort to ease prison conditions that have been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the new law mandates that counties take responsibility for the custody, treatment and supervision of individuals convicted of certain non-violent, non-serious, non-sex crimes. 

Mr. Brown promised a state constitutional amendment to fund realignment, in an effort to address concerns of county officials that their new criminal justice responsibilities would overwhelm vital local services. 

Speakers from Texas, Oregon and Colorado as well as a few California jurisdictions offered some reassurance by highlighting innovative strategies by local law enforcement – including risk-based assessments and alternatives to incarceration – at the pretrial, sentencing and supervision stages.  

As Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told the group, “If implemented successfully, evidence-based strategies can reduce jail overcrowding and recidivism, avoid costly jail expansions, and keep our communities safe.” 

For more about the conference and realignment, please visit    


The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.

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