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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.

California's Prison Realignment Plan Off To a Terrible Start

California's plan to house state inmates in local jails has already produced two bad examples.

January 10, 2012  |  by Los Angeles Police Protective League

Editor's Note: This blog post first appeared on the Los Angeles Police Protective League's website.

State leaders might have seen an ideal budget fix in their new law allowing felons with prison terms of six years or less to be housed in local jails and then supervised by local law enforcement agencies, but the past few days have already given us two examples of just how terribly bad this idea will turn out.

Steven Hoff was paroled from state prison in January 2011, but the parole was suspended in July, which typically means he broke contact with his parole officer, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Parole agents had been looking for him for a parole violation when he allegedly shot and seriously wounded a parole agent on Wednesday. He was apprehended after an hours-long manhunt in Lake View Terrace that forced the closing of the 210 Freeway and lockdown of two schools.

Within hours, details of his violent past began to emerge. Among other things, according to the Times, Hoff was involved in a standoff with LAPD SWAT officers in the same general area nearly a decade ago. On Aug. 21, 2002, he barricaded himself in a Sylmar home to evade police and state parole agents searching for him in connection with a parole violation and the slaying of a motorcycle club member in Kern County.

In the coming years, the Steven Hoffs of the world won't be supervised and tracked by parole agents. Instead, the state will have turned over the job to local law enforcement agencies. What will happen when they simply abscond to another county to get away from local supervision? Who, exactly, will go look for these dangerous individuals if there is no statewide parole agency?

And speaking of local inmate housing commitments, the first inmate sentenced to local jail in lieu of prison escaped on Wednesday. William Scott Woodin, jailed locally because of the new law, escaped from Orange County's Theo Lacy maximum-security jail by  "wiggling through a kitchen window." He may be the first inmate to escape from that jail in 20 years, but he is a precursor of problems that will only multiply in the coming years. Jails are built to house pre-trial inmates and low level offenders. They are not equipped—by facility design or in staffing levels—to house inmates for years on end. Woodin was a mostly a thief and drug addict; but what will happen when violent felons like Steven Hoff start filling our local jails on multi-year sentences?

We've already seen the death and destruction caused by the state's now abandoned "low level, non-violent" release program, whose sole aim was to release unsupervised inmates into our communities. This state's latest effort, placing inmates into county jails and leaving local authorities to supervise them, looks doomed to be just as much of a public safety failure.

Tags: Police Unions, Corrections, LAPD, Parolees, California Corrections

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Marsha @ 1/12/2012 10:26 PM

Realignment is not fair to those who have already been sentenced. I have a husband that sits in prison on a 10 year sentence for bouncing checks that he paid off before being arrested. Now people are getting home arrest. He was a business owner that employed 5 people and supported solely supported our family. Everybody lost in this situation especially our 3 children. Why not look at already incarcerated low level unfairly sentenced inmates?

Morpheus @ 1/17/2012 12:12 PM

How about some federal money for more prisons instead of crazy bailouts and failed loans like Solyndra? Would create some needed jobs here in CA.

Greg @ 3/8/2012 3:56 AM

This isn't about prisoners, it's about a large group of future Democrat voters. CA law allows criminals not on parole to vote...these guys wouldn't be on parole....Tadaa! New group of Democrat voters just in time for Obama.

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