Prison Realignment Drastically Changes Job, Probation Officers Say

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    NEWSLETTERS

    LA County Sheriff's officials seized drugs, weapons and computers in a three-week sweep of sex offenders on probation. Twenty-one people were arrested in the operation, but all were released early because of prison realignment. Probation officers say their job is getting more dangerous because more offenders are back on the streets. Ted Chen reports from Downey for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 8, 2013. (Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013)

    Nearly two dozen sex offenders were arrested during a three-week operation in LA County, in which investigators conducted compliance checks – going to the homes of sex offenders to make sure their ankle bracelets were working and they weren’t violating the terms of their probation.

    Agents seized computers, hard-drives and phones, drugs and weapons during the sweep. And in one instance, children were found at a residence shared by a convicted sex offender.

    Compliance checks are now part of the job description for probation officers because of the prison realignment program known as AB109.

    “The individuals we checked on this past month had priors from robbery, kidnapping, attempted murder,” said Steve Howell, with the LA County Probation Department.

    The federal order to reduce California’s prison population has put thousands of former state prisoners under the supervision of county probation departments. Probation officers say it has dramatically changed what they deal with. Instead of mostly passive, low-level offenders, they now see more aggressive and confrontational offenders.

    “They have a different type of mentality where they want to challenge you right away,” LA County probation officer Jose Lopez said.

    “A lot of these guys know they’re not going back to prison, so they’re going to put up a fight,” LA County probation officer Steven Munguia said.

    Probation officers say their roles are slowly becoming less about transition and more about enforcement. California governor Jerry Brown is fighting a new order to reduce the population even further.

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