In the recent debate before the League of Women Voters, the Sheriff claimed that due to pension changes, the total operating cost of the new 376-bed jail together with his new 228-bed STAR jail would be very close to the previously given cost for the 376-bed jail alone, $17.3 million. That means he is claiming that although $15.8 will cover the 376-bed new jail, just $1.5 million more will cover the per diem expenses of the 228 ADP of the STAR jail, which comes to $18.03 per diem, a truly absurd number.
From the outset the Sheriff has claimed that the annual rate of increase of custodial services after 2018 would only be 3%, yet he has offered no backing at all for that claim.
He gave the Blue Ribbon Commission Rosser's 1999 projections knowing that they had been invalidated were worthless for planning. And he approved and passed on Rosser's error-ridden 2008, 2010, and 2013 projections. In short, even the most cursory examination of his claims would demonstrate his unreliability and the necessity of checking everything he says and arriving at completely independent estimates of the current situation, of future needs, and of the costs of implementing the various alternatives.
Trusting a person willing to distort the truth to realize an obsession is not merely foolish; in a public official charged with responsibility for important decision on how to best use limited public resources, it is irresponsibly reckless.
What Can Be Done?
At this late stage, only a groundswell of protest can stop the jail juggernaut that has already consumed many millions of dollars of our budget. If a public outcry arises, the first step must be a cessation of all work on the project pending an independent investigation of all information supplied by the Sheriff and by Rosser in support of the jail. If the facts are discovered to be in accord with the evidence I've uncovered, then a process must be initiated through which a series of new procedures are implemented to lower or eliminate bail, to set up community mechanisms to supervise and monitor pretrial defendants released on their own recognizance and sentenced prisoners released early with the end of reducing the the jail ADP well below its rated capacity. A plan should be drawn up for remodeling the existing jail. There are ample intellectual resources to support these changes as they have been, and are being, implemented in many other communities throughout the country.
Alternatives to Incarceration
Many effective alternatives to incarceration are being implemented throughout the country. One of the best sources is the American Bar Association's website which can be reached by clicking here:
Here are some important excerpts from this website:
The American Bar Association and its Criminal Justice Section understand the current need for state governments to focus on fiscal savings and have developed a set of proposed criminal justice policy reforms that will save states money, improve the criminal justice system, and help keep the public safe.
To promote effective policy reform, the American Bar Association has assembled five key issues where reform will reduce state spending and keep communities safe. The five policy areas are:
Pretrial Release Reform
Civil Citations for Minor Offenses
Effective Reentry Programs
Increased Use of Parole and Probation
Community Corrections Programs
Proper implementation of policy reform in these areas will both increase judicial efficacy and save a significant amount of money. The SPIP Overview discusses each of the five policy areas, policy standards or guidelines, relevant statutes that have already been passed, and success stories demonstrating fiscal savings.
Pretrial Release Reform
Every year the United States spends close to $66 billion to keep 2.3 million people behind bars. According to the United States Department of Justice, approximately 500,000 of the 2.3 million people behind bars have not been convicted of any crime; rather, they are accused individuals awaiting trial. Two thirds of the 500,000 individuals incarcerated in jail and awaiting trial are low bail risk, meaning they have been deemed by a magistrate to pose no significant risk to themselves or the community, as well as representing a low risk of flight. They often remain in jail for over a year before standing trial while taxpayers provide them with food, clothing, healthcare, and security – last year alone the United States spent $9 billion on services for individuals who could not afford bail.
Commentary: Releasing two thirds of the 70%+ of the part of our average daily prisoner count that represents pretrial detainees would reduce the total average daily population by over 53%, bringing even an ADP of 1,000 down to just 467—far lower than our rated capacity of 816.
With the development of better tools, methods, and technologies, states can better supervise low bail risk offenders, saving money on pretrial detention and reducing risk to the community. Individuals who pose the lowest risk can be identified, released before trial, and then appropriately monitored and supported so they do not become a risk. Enacting reforms under these narrow circumstances will not only save taxpayers money, but also ensure that communities are not put in increased danger.
Civil Citations for Minor Offenses
State budgets have very limited resources. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and defense attorneys need to focus on more serious offenses. If civil citation programs for minor offenses are implemented, it would not only direct more resources toward the investigation of serious crimes, but it would also provide states additional income from applicable civil fines.
Commentary: citation-release is given to many, but not all, of those charged with misdemeanors, but never, or almost never, to those charged with any type of felony, no matter how minor (such as non-violent drug possession offenses). Moreover, in Santa Barbara County, but not in many other California Counties, courts retain full control of the release process with the exception of the Sheriff who although given broad authority to release prisoners as necessary to reduce crowding rarely exercises that power and deplores pretrial release even of those charged with misdemeanors.
Effective Reentry Programs
Recidivists account for a significant portion of the United States’ prison population – it is estimated that over half of former inmates are re-arrested and incarcerated within three years following release from prison. A key component to combating these high numbers is to more effectively choose those inmates who are prepared for release and to create programs that provide those released with useful counseling and vocational training. Without guidance, former inmates are left without necessary support and job training and quickly return to a life of crime. With the costs of incarceration skyrocketing, states simply cannot afford to repeatedly house the same prisoners. States can actually reduce their costs by providing former inmates with the tools necessary to become successful, productive members of the community.
Commentary: It is recognized throughout reform circles that these reentry programs must be community-based, not jail-based. The powerful incarceration lobby wants to build more jails at great public expense—such as the 228-bed STAR Complex—for housing costly and ineffective jail-based programs.
Increased Use of Parole and Probation
Unnecessary incarceration is a tremendous expense to the taxpayer and can do more harm than good with regards to an offender’s rehabilitation. Lengthy periods of incarceration should therefore be reserved for offenders who commit the most serious offenses and pose the greatest danger to the community. In contrast, alternatives to incarceration should be provided for those offenders who pose minimal risk to the community and appear likely to benefit from rehabilitation efforts outside a correctional institution.
Commentary: The Realignment plans strongly support increased use of parole and probations, but in Santa Barbara County fails to implement a key reform—community-based alternatives to incarceration for “technical” (as opposed to criminal) probation and parole violations which are the major cause of re-incarceration. (see the last two lines of the following paragraph for the ABA’s stand on this.)
The ABA's Criminal Justice Standards on Sentencing calls for sentences to be no more severe than necessary to achieve the societal purposes for which they are authorized. The Standards strongly support judicial determination of the length of such incarceration, but recognize that many states continue to use indeterminate sentencing; for those states the Standards call for an administrative board (i.e. parole board) to decide when to release individuals incarcerated under inadequately determinate sentences. The Standards also include probation options for the courts, substantial “good time” credit for individuals sentenced to total confinement, and supports the assertion that non-violent offender’s violation of parole and/or probation should not automatically result in incarceration.
Commentary: As shown on the page SBC Criminal Justice, our system of prosecutors and judges is one of the most punitive in the state, sending more persons to prison for longer sentences than other counties at enormous cost to state and local taxpayers and causing untoward suffering in the families of those suffering from these prosecutions which are very clearly racially and ethnically biased.
Community Corrections Programs
“Community corrections” refer to sanctions served by an offender within the community where that offender either (a) committed an offense or (b) currently resides. The objectives of community corrections include punishing an offender in the least restrictive setting consistent with public safety and the gravity of the crime; providing offenders with education, training, and treatment to enable an individual to become a fully functional member of the community upon release from supervision; and making offenders accountable to the community for criminal behavior.
Community corrections envisions a wide-range of locally implemented, non-incarcerative sanctions such as probation, day-reporting centers, community service, home confinement with or without electronic monitoring, drug and alcohol treatment, means-based fines, and restitution to both the victim and the community.
Commentary: In Santa Barbara County the reality of excessively punitive incarceration belies the abundant talk about the named programs. The jargon has been mastered, even by our Sheriff, but the financial decisions show the talk for what it is—empty rhetoric. This is most clearly shown by the program to bring mental health care into the Sheriff’s 376-bed jail and to bring re-entry programs into his second, 228-bed, jail, both projects approved unanimously by our compliant Supervisors.
Results of a Connecticut Alternative-to-Incarceration Program
The CCEA analysis shows that alternative programs to incarceration are
financially beneficial to Connecticut. The results account for the direct, indirect and
induced impacts of the proposed alternatives. In addition, we believe the results are quite conservative. They do not fully incorporate many of the social benefits of these programs. For instance, families of these offenders benefit when they are not
incarcerated and are treated for their addictions; secondary crime may be reduced through less gang activity and other criminal activity in which ex- inmates may get involved. The analysis also makes a conservative assumption about State expenditures, and does not incorporate the projected costs to the State of building and maintaining additional prison facilities. The analysis makes clear that utilizing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent substance abusers and providing offenders with the skills and training necessary to pursue productive vocations will benefit both the State government and Connecticut residents.
Comprehensive Report on Pretrial Release Programs
The following is taken from a longer report referenced on the ABA website
From the perspective of the defendant, who is presumed innocent, pretrial release mitigates the collateral consequences of spending weeks or months awaiting trial or a plea agreement. Jail time can result in job loss, home loss, and disintegrated social relationships, which in turn increase the likelihood of re-offending upon release…
The same study of felony defendants showed that 42% were detained until disposition of their case [in 1990]. Pretrial incarceration imposes significant costs on taxpayer-funded jails, primarily at the local government level. In 2010, “taxpayers spent $9 billion on pre-trial detainees.” The increased practice of requiring financial bonds has contributed to increased jail populations, which has produced an extraordinary increase in costs to counties and municipalities from housing pretrial detainees. The most recent national data indicates that 61% of jail inmates are in an un-convicted status, up from just over half in 1996.
Commentary: Today in Santa Barbara County, almost no one charged with a felony, no matter how minor, is released on his or her own recognizance. Also the 11% increase in the percentage of prisoners who are incarcerated pretrial mirrors the 12% increase in California—but contrasts with the 25%+ increase in pretrial incarceration in Santa Barbara County where an overcrowded jail is used as an argument for building a new jail.
In addition to the financial costs from increased pretrial detention, the cost in unequal access to justice also appears to be high. The movement to financial bonds as a requirement for pretrial release, often requiring a surety bond from a commercial bond seller, makes economic status a significant factor in determining whether a defendant is released pending trial, instead of such factors as risk of flight and threat to public safety…
The practice of conditioning release on the ability to obtain a surety bond has so troubled the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) that, in its Third Edition of Standards on Pretrial Release (and in previous editions beginning in 1968), Standard 1.4(f) provides that “[c]onsistent with the processes provided in these Standards, compensated sureties should be abolished.” According to NAPSA, compensated sureties should be abolished because the ability to pay a bondsman is unrelated to the risk of flight or danger to the community; a surety bond system transfers the release decision from a judge to private party making unreviewable decisions on unknown factors; and the surety system unfairly discriminates against defendants who are unable to afford non-refundable fees required by the bondsman as a condition of posting the bond. The American Bar Association also recommends that “compensated sureties should be abolished.” The Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State of Wisconsin have prohibited the use of compensated sureties.32 In addition, Illinois and Oregon do not allow release on surety bonds (but do permit deposit bail).
Commentary: Santa Barbara County not only uses bail bond in a discriminatory manner, but increases discrimination by having some of the highest bond rates in the state.
The ability of a defendant to obtain pretrial release has a significant correlation to criminal justice outcomes. Numerous research projects conducted over the past half century have shown that defendants who are held in pretrial detention have less favorable outcomes than those who are not detained —regardless of charge or criminal history. In these studies, the less favorable outcomes include a greater tendency to plead guilty to secure release (a significant issue in misdemeanor cases), a greater likelihood of conviction, a greater likelihood of being sentenced to terms of incarceration, and a greater likelihood of receiving longer prison terms.” Data support the common sense proposition that pretrial detention has a coercive impact on a defendant’s amenability to a plea bargain offer and inhibits a defendant’s ability to participate in preparation for a defense. In summarizing decades of research, the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance noted that “research has demonstrated that detained defendants receive more severe sentences, are offered less attractive plea bargains and are more likely to become ‘reentry’ clients because of their pretrial detention – regardless of charge or criminal history.”…
Commentary: In Santa Barbara County excessive pretrial detention, especially of minorities, is the prosecutor’s chief tool for exacting unjustified and excessively punitive plea bargains that are responsible for our disproportionate burden on the state’s prison budget. These extorted plea bargains often involve requirement for perjured registration as a gang member, thereby paving the way for increasing sentences through gang enhancements in case of any future arrests and inflating the alleged scope of gang membership.
Perhaps the best-known use of evidence-based risk assessment to reduce reliance on financial release conditions exists in the District of Columbia’s Pretrial Services Agency (PSA). Paradoxically, the DC pretrial Code requires detention if no combination of conditions will reasonably assure that a defendant does not flee or pose a risk to public safety. If the prosecutor demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant presents a serious flight risk or threat to the victim or to public safety, the defendant is detained without the option for pretrial release. However, the DC Code also provides that a judge may not impose a financial condition as a means of preventative detention. PSA conducts a risk assessment (flight and danger) through an interview with the defendant within 24 hours of arrest that assesses points on a 38-factor instrument, assigning a defendant into a category as high risk, medium risk, and low risk. In 1965, only 11% of defendants were released without a money bond, but by 2008, 80% of all defendants were released without a money bond, 15% were held without bail, and 5% were held with financial bail (none on surety bond), while at the same time 88% of released defendants made all court appearances and 88% completed pretrial release without any new arrests…
Commentary: If such a program existed in Santa Barbara and achieve these results, our jail would reduce a record high ADP of 1,000 to just 440, about half of the jail’s rated capacity.
Kentucky abolished commercial bail bondsmen in 1976 and implemented the statewide Pretrial Services Agency that today relies on interviews and investigations of all persons arrested on bailable offenses within 12 hours of his or her arrest…
In 2011 Pretrial Services processed 249,545 cases in which a full investigation was conducted on 88% of all incarcerated defendants. Using a validated risk assessment tool, Pretrial Services identifies defendants as being either low, moderate, or high risk for pretrial misconduct, (i.e. failing to appear for court hearings or committing a new criminal offense while on pretrial release). Ideally, low risk defendants (those most likely to return to court and not commit a new offense) are recommended for release either on their recognizance or a non-financial bond. Statistically, about 70% of pretrial defendants are released in Kentucky; 90% of those make all future court appearances and 92% do not get re-arrested while on pretrial release.60 When looking at release rates by risk level, the data shows that judges follow the recommendations of Pretrial Services. In 2011, judges ordered pretrial release of 81% of low risk defendants, 65% of moderate risk defendants, and 52% of high risk defendants.
In 2011, Kentucky adopted House Bill 463, a major overhaul of the Commonwealth’s criminal laws that intended to reduce the cost of housing inmates while maintaining public safety. Since adoption of HB 463, Pretrial Services data shows a 10% decrease in the number of defendants arrested and a 5% increase in the overall release rate, with a substantial increase in non-financial releases and in releases for low and moderate risk defendants. The non-financial release rate increased from 50% to 66%, the low risk release rate increased from 76% to 85%, and the moderate risk release rate increased from 59% to 67%. In addition, pretrial jail populations have decreased by 279 defendants, while appearance and public safety rates have remained consistent.
Commentary: The 70% pre-release rate corresponds to 30% held, which translates in Santa Barbara County into 40% fewer total prisoners incarcerated on an average day. With House Bill 463 the 5% increase in overall release rate translates into a 73.5% release rate, 26.5% detained pretrial or, in Santa Barbara County terms, a decrease in the total ADP of at least 43.5%. It is also noteworthy that 67% or the moderate risk prisoners, many charged with felonies, are released, as well as over half of the so-called “high risk” defendants. Both these categories would be considered too dangerous to release here.
There are other, similar examples of successful implementation of evidence-based pretrial assessments that deliver on the promise of pretrial release without financial conditions. Evidence-based pretrial risk assessment in the context of skillful and collaborative case management and data sharing should be embraced as the best practice by judges, court administrators, and court leaders. Reliance on a validated, evidence-based pretrial risk assessment in setting non-financial release conditions balances the interests of courts in both protecting public safety and safeguarding individual liberty.
The ABA website contains a large list of links to other studies of community-based programs designed to facilitate re-entry through drug and alcoholism, and mental illness treatment, and job training. These programs are typically tied to early release into community supervision (probation or parole). Cost-effective and socially important pretrial programs are also discussed in various of the references.