The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $20.7 million budget to support state inmates re-routed to county jails under California's realignment plan.
The more than $20 million will expand some departments and cover operational costs associated with the hundreds of additional low-level offenders that would previously have been housed in state prison and are now under county jurisdiction under state Assembly Bill 109.
This afternoon's vote comes after six months of debate among the members of the county's Community Corrections Partnership, or CCP, about how to allocate $19 million in state realignment funding. The prolonged negotiations mean the county's public safety departments will receive the funding only now that the fiscal year is halfway through.
The CCP executive committee includes the county's public safety and criminal justice department heads, including Sheriff David Livingston, District Attorney Mark Peterson, Public Defender Robin Lipetzky and Probation Chief Philip Kader.
The committee's newly approved budget allocates more than $15 million to hire new personnel and for other costs related to AB 109 inmate caseloads.
In addition, $5.2 million of the spending plan is earmarked for partnerships with community organizations aimed at reducing recidivism, or the rate of inmates returning to jail.
Members of community groups such as the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, or CCISCO, and the Safe Return Project, as well as several community leaders from Richmond, packed CCP meetings over the past six months to voice their support for solid investment in programs that keep offenders off of the streets, such as one-stop service centers providing education, housing and employment resources to ex-offenders.
At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, several community leaders and residents again urged the board to approve funding for such programs.
"You need to invest in people, not prisons," Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said. "It's been said over and over again that we have to address
the roots of crime, and that means to address the roots of recidivism by providing opportunities."
Jonathan Perez, 19, told the board at the meeting that he himself benefited from opportunities aimed at re-integrating ex-offenders.
"A little over a year ago I was locked up in Martinez. When I got out, I knew I wanted to do something different, but I didn't know how," he
said. "I'm living proof that if you give people the opportunity, they will change."
Supervisor John Gioia, who agreed with the need for investment in community anti-recidivism programs, commended the CCP for drafting a budget
that takes into consideration the needs of the county's various public safety departments.
However, not all of the county's law enforcement and criminal justice departments received the funding they requested.
District Attorney Mark Peterson's office did not receive any of the $1.1 million requested to fund the added workload for AB 109 defendants. The board rejected that request, vowing instead to make funding for the district attorney's office during the CCP's budget 2013-2014 Fiscal Year
"It was disappointing, although I'm happy the Board of Supervisors unanimously believes it's a priority and should be made a priority," Peterson
said of the decision.
The board also said it would set aside funding in the upcoming CCP fiscal year budget for law enforcement departments.
During the course of the CCP's budget negotiations since June, the sheriff also compromised, agreeing to table a proposal to expand the West County Detention Facility in June by roughly 150 beds. Roughly $2.7 million of the budget has been set aside for the expansion in the event that recidivism programs are not successful.
"I don't agree with everything on the budget, but I think it gets us further toward...reducing the recidivism rate," Livingston said Tuesday.