During the South Pasadena City Council’s special meeting on Sept. 25 with Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, prisoner realignment, along with massage establishments, were the two issues of local as well as statewide concern that were discussed. In a brief public comment, South Pas Police Chief Art Miller pointed out a disconcerting fact: That nonviolent offenders released from state prisons under California law governed by AB 109 and AB 117 are being freed on the basis of only their most recent crime, and that their criminal history, which often includes violent crimes, is effectively ignored.
Patch recently sat down with City Manager Sergio Gonzalez, who hired Miller in April, to ask how the issue of prisoner realignment affects South Pasadena. Excerpts:
Patch: Why is prisoner realignment important for a small city such as South Pas?
Sergio Gonzalez: Prisoner realignment has had a huge impact in a lot of local communities. Basically, the burden has been brought down to the local level, but no additional funds are available to deal with the extra workload of having to deal with more prisoners being released faster from prison, and the fact that many of them commit multiple crimes after their release.
So, it’s very taxing on local agencies. Keep in mind, the police department was spread thin even before the realignment. And now, with the additional responsibilities of having with the prisoner realignment we’re even further stretched.
Our police chief is very cognizant of this. He made a very good point [during the Sept. 25 meeting with Supervisor Antonovich]—that most times individuals who come out of prison have committed at least five crimes before they get caught and arrested again. So, this becomes a public safety concern as well as a stretch on resources for our city.
Patch: But haven’t the inmates who are being released from prison served their time for past offenses?
Gonzalez: They’re being released because they committed [so-called] N3s—nonviolent, nonsexual and non-serious crimes. If you hold up a liquor store with a gun but nobody gets hurt and take the money, that would be considered a non-violent, non-serious crime. If you steal a TV set worth a couple of thousand dollars, it’s still considered a non-serious crime.
So, keep in mind the psychological effect this [such a policy] has on our residents. When somebody’s home or car is broken into, they feel violated. And the person who is arrested can be out in a few days. So, there’s not a lot of deterrent on people who commit such property crimes.
Patch: What’s the significance of Chief Miller’s point that criminals are being released on the basis of only their most recent crime?
Gonzalez: Let’s say we have a criminal who had an aggravated assault conviction 10 years ago. But five years ago, he stole come CDs from a Costco. When they get sent back from state prison to the county level, their cumulative [crime] record is not looked at. And that’s a serious concern because we can have someone commit a violent crime in the past but the last crime they’re arrested for is nonviolent.
Patch: But a person cannot be punished for the same crime twice.
Gonzalez: That's right. But keep in mind that as the prisoner population continues to grow and the capacity [of prisons] is obviously pushed to the limits, the amount of time prisoners serve will continue to be reduced. And we’re going to have repeat offenders out quicker, and they’re going to repeat crime faster.