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Managing County Jails in a “Realigned” State

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April 10, 2014

“A bit of mercy,” says Pope Francis, “makes the world less cold and more just.”

Two of the bills delegates will discuss with legislators during the upcoming Catholic Advocacy Day involve some common sense, “merciful” adjustments to county jail procedures.

AB 1876 (Quirk, D-Hayward) would prohibit exorbitant charges and fees being added to phone calls into county jails. The practice of adding these fees make it difficult for family members to stay in touch with incarcerated relatives even though studies show that prisoners who stay connected with their families are less likely to re-offend. A 15-minute phone call to state prison, for example, now costs about $2.00. The same call to a county jail could be as much as $12.75 – six hundred percent more!

The second issue in the restorative justice area concerns when prisoners are released.

SB 833 (Liu, D-La Canada) would allow people released from county jails to voluntarily remain a few hours longer instead of leaving at midnight which is common practice.

Often, after release, people check into half-way houses, rehabilitation centers and other services to help them re-integrate into society – but these services don’t usually have transportation available at night. The released person can voluntarily choose to remain until the morning when he or she could safely arrange a ride. Again, the delayed release is common in state prison but varies in county applications.

Both of these bills are needed because of the new state policy of realignment – shifting offenders and rehabilitation responsibility for programs from the state to the county. The financial considerations of the policy are enormous but so is the task of adjusting laws so that county jails can follow some of the more common sense practices available in state programs.

Catholic Advocacy Day will take place April 29. Delegates from each diocese in California will be visiting legislators at the State Capitol to advocate on selected issues and the Catholic Legislative Network will be issuing Action Alerts on the bills so that members can support the delegates as they make their visits to Sacramento.

Background on all the bills which include measures dealing with reverence for life, budget, economic justice and education issues are all available here.