First, California is expected to receive upward of $35 million in federal funds through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program in 2010. Federal JAG grants, which do not require state or county matching funds, are approved for law enforcement, prosecution and court programs, community corrections, and drug treatment, among others.
Sacramento should direct these funds to counties to assist counties' handling of probationers and parolees.
This is not unheard of. Last year the Legislative directed $100 million in federal stimulus JAG funds toward crime-reduction programs, including $45 million to county alcohol and drug services (to provide treatment instead of incarceration to low-level drug offenders), $45 million for intensive probation services (to increase the number of felony probationers completing probation successfully) and $10 million for a new Re-Entry Courts initiative (to reduce parolee recidivism).
Secondly, counties should be able to access funding from the prison expansion legislation passed in 2007, AB 900. That bill included resources for rehabilitation services and a limited amount of funding for counties. Rather than being spent to expand state prison beds several years in the future, more of these resources should be directed to counties now to fund community corrections and, where needed, jail space.
I think the key to use the funds thoughtfully is to find out which "crime-reduction programs" have proven rates of success. It's time for a new "What Works". After reading Dreams from the Monster Factory, I thought whether anyone had collected good data, including a control group, regarding the success of the RSVP program. Assessing the efficacy of such programs should be top priority. One of the challenges is that recidivism data is rather difficult to access in California and rap sheets tend to be somewhat inaccurate. In addition, due to the multiple types of parole violations, it's hard to know whether to treat them as failures of rehabilitation or not. But good methodological answers to these questions can and should be found. These are no trifle sums of money, and they need to be well spent.