From the President

November 1, 2011

Let me start once again by welcoming several new members to SCOPO for 2011 (in order of application): Trinity County Peace Officer’s Association, Glenn County Peace Officers Association and Calaveras County Probation. Welcome aboard! As we continue to grow, it’s important for all of us to realize that we’re all facing similar challenges during these trying times, and that as a community of likeminded organizations we can and will prevail over the obstacles in front of us.

As I compose this email, it is day 20 of AB 109 – realignment implementation. I’ve already heard about mixed results for implementation, and that was to be expected. You see, as realignment evolves there will be continued changes in legislation and the allocation of resources. Changes will still need to be made in legislation to address continued issues with sentencing and the supervision of those released on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) offenders, and those sentenced as Local Community Supervision (LCS) offenders. With regard to the allocation of resources, we find great concern with the fact that funding for realignment has not yet been guaranteed after the first year (nine months actually, since implementation went live October 1st, 2011). Recently, the governor and others have again called for a guaranteed source of future funding; which is a must if realignment is going to work. A state constitutional amendment would do the trick, now do the legislators have the guts to get one passed? This is something we can’t afford to do on the cheap, or contract out to the lowest bidder. That will only spell disaster for the criminal justice system, and the state of California.

On October 14th, we met in San Jose for our second to last SCOPO meeting of the year. At that meeting, it came to my attention that discussions at the local level through each county’s Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) meetings have been all over the place in terms of realignment implementation. On one hand, it sounds like the CCP’s partners are in agreement about the concept of reducing recidivism by shifting from incarceration to rehabilitation at the local level. On the other hand, old rivalries, greed and incompetence seem to be the order of business. As with any power struggle, especially one that involves money, politics has played a role in shaping the discussion in each of these CCPs. Some counties seem to have gotten it right. They have agreed upon a plan of action, implemented it and are clearing the hurdles as they move forward. Then, there are other CCPs where the partners are not just working in opposition, but even worse have yet to implement a plan. One disturbing trend was that in some of these counties probation has taken a back seat to the role of designated leader. Realignment was designed to place probation front and center, because of their experience in evidenced based practices and because of their track record in reducing recidivism, but it now appears that some chiefs have either rolled over or delegated the chair to other CCP partners in the design and implementation of a plan. One word describes this behavior: Weak. An abbreviated definition of weak, as described by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary reads as follows: lacking strength, not able to resist external force or withstand attack, mentally or intellectually deficient, lacking skill or proficiency, and not having or exerting authority or political power.

Again, some chiefs have taken the lead and driven CCP discussion in the right direction. For those who have not, I say either step up to your responsibility and face the challenge accordingly, or defer probation’s lead to a competent leader in your department. This is a perfect opportunity to show the state and the nation what we can accomplish with this opportunity. Let’s not botch it! I know some people have dismissed this as a debacle, or dismissed the idea that realignment could be effective. The reality is that this will be our only chance to get this right. What we should all be mindful of, is that besides those who want to see realignment succeed, there are others who want to see it fail. Add to that, the fact that there are those who are more focused on getting a bigger piece of the pie, rather than giving the current plan a chance to succeed. A recent example of this was expressed by several chiefs of police in a letter dated October 6th, 2011. In that letter, they wrote that “many of these offenders can only be effectively monitored and supervised with the assistance of uniformed police officers,” thus insinuating that more money should be allocated towards police services. Prior to the letter, the mayor of Los Angeles - Antonio Villaraigosa, led the charge by calling the program “political malpractice.” Governor Brown’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford responded in an e-mail, “Realignment was debated by law enforcement and public safety experts for months in Sacramento. You would think that any legitimate concerns about the policy would have been raised before it was implemented.” Let’s not let fear mongering and unproven claims take precedence over a reasoned approach to solving our problems.

In the midst of realignment, you may ask yourself what you can do to increase probation’s chances for success with realignment and enhance our visibility on probation related issues. Become part of the solution. Get involved with SCOPO, become informed about relevant topics to the field of probation, then plan to meet and educate your local and state legislators about what you do and why it is important to adequately allocate funding to probation. We need to be at the forefront of the battle to preserve and expand funding to probation, and be an active part of the discussion when probation and related labor issues are being discussed. One person and one organization can’t do this alone, especially considering what’s at stake. Consider this a call for probation to rise to the challenge, and take the lead in California’s future. Your future.
Stay alert, stay safe, and stand committed.

Paul Brennan
SCOPO President