Anxiety Rises Over Prisoner Transfer Program

Mayors of Los Angeles and other large cities are warning that under the new state prisoner transfer program,  "safety of our cities could be at risk."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is beating the drum, warning of a "brewing public safety crisis." 

In a letter signed by him, along with the mayors of San Diego, Fresno, San Jose and others, Villaraigosa complians that cities are being victimized by Gov. Jerry Brown's move to transfer new inmates and parolees from state prisons to county jails.

"Many of these offenders can only be effectively monitored and supervised with the assistance of uniformed police officers, thus further straining our local police departments," Villaraigosa writes.

But the mayors' complaints are too little, too late.

As the governor's deputy legislative affairs secretary, Aaron Maguire, noted Wednesday in a discussion at UC Davis, the so-called realignment plan has been in the works since January, when Jerry Brown took office.

But it has its roots in serious overcrowding that's been growing for years. Five years ago, then-Governor Schwarzenegger issued an emergency proclamation on prison crowding, and the state began shipping inmates out of state to private contractors.

Brown is backing the plan in an effort to reduce costs, but also in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering prison crowding to be addressed.

To ease local government worries, he has pledged to push a constitutional amendment guaranteeing funding to local government to pay for the prisoner shift.

But Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) noted that it "also comes with the significant risk that funding necessary to make it successful may not come from the state."

Brown himself has not said whether the money will come from tax increases, or from another source, if a tax measure fails on the ballot next year.

So the worries are genuine. But Villaraigosa's complaints about the burden on cities would have more legitimacy, if they had been voiced in Sacramento during the course of the past year when the legislation was being drafted.

More on prisoner realignment:

Brown to Sheriffs: Trust Me

Prisoner "Dumping"

The Ugly Truth About Prisoner Realignment

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