By Ted AYALA
Cities across the state wait with nervous expectation of what may occur in the wake of early inmate releases.
Last year Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr. signed AB 109. Known as a criminal justice realignment, the program is designed to relieve some of the state’s budget burden by reducing overcrowding in state prisons. The move has been controversial, with many groups attacking the program citing the potential dangers it may pose to citizens.
The Glendale City Council was no less concerned when they expressed their sentiments about the measure after attending a seminar in Santa Monica for the Independent Cities Association last weekend.
“To be perfectly honest, I was not taking this issue very seriously because I didn’t think anything was going to come of it,” said Councilman Rafi Manoukian. “But after attending the seminar I’m very concerned. [This] is a very serious issue.”
“The problems posed by realignment are daunting,” echoed Councilman Ara Najarian. “District Attorney Steve Cooley made a presentation indicating that current crime rates are at all time lows throughout the county. But because of this realignment ordering the state to release prisoners early on parole, this will cause, in [Cooley’s] opinion the greatest spike in crime that we’ve seen in the last 60 years. The thing that we will have to watch out for is there will be very many bad people – albeit [convicted of] non-sexual, non-violent, non-serious crimes – that will be out in the community, overwhelming the county’s probation officers. We really have to watch out and have a coordinated city plan.”
Councilman Dave Weaver expressed his worry that many of the “criminal element” return to the city of their origins to commit crimes again.
“They get back to their old trade because where are they going to get a job in this economy? So while our crime statistics are down this year, they will be up probably in the coming year,” he said.
Mayor Laura Friedman added her concerns.
“What really bothers me about this is … the idea that with this new plan people that have been sentenced to time for crimes aren’t going to have to serve that time. I think there is something fundamentally wrong about that. It’s unconscionable,” she said.