Back to 2010 Issues



Other Budget Issues

Last Updated: 4/13/2010
Budget Issue: Reentry court pilot program for parolees charged with or convicted of new crimes.
Program: Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Finding or Recommendation: Approve the Governor's April Finance Letter proposal to establish a reentry court pilot program in San Diego County for parolees who have committed a new crime, but modify it to assume an additional $226,000 in net savings. Also, require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to report on the progress and outcomes of the pilot program.
Further Detail


The state and local governments currently operate various types of “collaborative court” programs (such as drug courts) that typically involve the participation of judges, district attorneys, public defenders, probation officers, and treatment providers. In general, these programs require an offender to receive specific treatment and then appear in court at regular intervals to report on his or her progress. If the court finds that the offender has violated the terms of the program, it may order the offender to serve a short period of time in jail. The collaborative court program’s combination of intensive treatment services with swift and certain sanctions for violations is generally regarded by correctional experts as an effective rehabilitation program model. For example, national research studies have found that, on average, adult drug court programs reduce recidivism rates by about 11 percent. These programs also typically save money since community-based treatment and supervision cost less than incarceration.

In adopting the 2009-10 budget package, the Legislature approved Chapter 28, Statues of 2009 (SBX3 18, Ducheny), which among other changes, established a new parolee reentry court program in California. Under this particular program, certain parolees with a history of substance abuse or mental illness who violate the conditions of their parole may be referred by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to a reentry court program designed to provide rehabilitative treatment services and reduce recidivism. (Due to implementation delays, the reentry court program authorized in Chapter 28 has not yet been implemented by the department and the courts.)

Governor Proposes Court Program for Parolees Charged With or Convicted of New Crimes

In an April Finance Letter to revise his January budget proposal for 2010-11, the Governor proposes a reentry court pilot program in San Diego County for parolees who have committed a new crime. (In contrast, the program authorized under Chapter 28 is for parolees who have violated the conditions of their parole but have not been charged with a new crime.) Under the program, certain parolees from San Diego County who have been convicted of new criminal activity and sentenced to state prison could have their sentences recalled by the courts and be placed under court-monitored supervision and treatment in the community. Parolees held in county jails pending prosecution for a new crime could also be placed in the reentry court diversion program in lieu of a state prison sentence.

The department indicates that eligibility for the program would generally be limited to parolees whose current offense is not classified as a violent or sex registrant crime according to state law, and who have not been granted non-revocable parole status. Certain other parolees could also be eligible for the program at the discretion of the county district attorney. The pilot program would initially be limited to 100 participants. However, CDCR indicates that it intends to evaluate the outcomes of the program and possibly expand it to other counties in the future.

Based on the assumption that the reentry court pilot program would be implemented on July 1, 2010, the April Finance Letter proposes a net reduction of $483,000 in 2010-11 resulting from the following adjustments:

  • $2.3 million in state prison savings resulting from a reduction in the inmate population.
  • $1.5 million increase to provide treatment to program participants in the community.
  •  $297,000 increase for three new CDCR staff positions and overtime to monitor and oversee the program.

In addition, CDCR indicates that San Diego County will provide about $750,000 in staff time to support the program (including district attorneys, public defenders, and probation officers).

Proposal Has Merit, but Appears Over Budgeted and Lacks Legislative Oversight

Given that collaborative court programs are generally considered to be effective models for reducing recidivism rates and, thus, could reduce state correctional costs, we find that the Governor’s proposed reentry court pilot program merits legislative consideration. However, our analysis indicates that the base funding for the proposal appears to be over budgeted by $462,000. For example, rather than provide $135,000 to support a Mental Health Manager, we find that the department could redirect one of its existing mental health staff positions to support the new program. The department is also requesting $147,000 to support a probation officer even though San Diego County has already agreed to fund such a position. In addition, we find that the department’s request for $150,000 for “administrative overhead” for the county to monitor treatment contracts is unjustified, given that it is also requesting three new staff positions specifically to oversee and administer the pilot program who could perform this function. It is also unclear why the department is requesting $30,000 for “gate money” (which is given to inmates upon release from prison), since the purpose of the program is to divert parolees from entering prison. Furthermore, we find that the assumed July 1, 2010 implementation date is unrealistic, particularly given the delays that have occurred in implementing the reentry court program authorized under Chapter 28.

As indicated above, the department intends to evaluate the outcomes of the pilot program. However, the Governor’s proposal does not include any language requiring CDCR to conduct such an evaluation and reports its findings to the Legislature. In order to ensure that the Legislature has sufficient information to determine whether the program should be expanded in the future, we believe that the department should be required to provide an evaluation report to the Legislature after the program has been implemented for at least one year.

LAO Recommendations

In view of the above, we recommend that the Legislature approve the April Finance Letter to establish the reentry court pilot program, but assume an additional $226,000 in net savings. (This amount assumes additional savings of $462,000 to account for the fact that the proposal is over budgeted, which is partially offset by $236,000 due to an estimated three-month implementation delay.) In addition, we recommend that the Legislature adopt supplemental report language requiring that the department report on the implementation of the pilot program, as well as on the program’s outcomes and cost-effectiveness, to the Legislature. Specifically, we recommend CDCR provide a progress report on the implementation of the program by January 10, 2011, and an evaluation report by January 10, 2012. Given that the program is proposed as a pilot, we also recommend that the Legislature approve the three new CDCR staff positions on a two-year, limited-term basis.