Proposed Budget. The judicial budget includes support for the Supreme Court, the courts of appeal, and the Judicial Council. The budget proposes total appropriations of $237 million for support of these judicial functions in 1997-98. This is an increase of $49 million, or 26 percent, above estimated current-year expenditures. Total General Fund expenditures are proposed at $197 million, an increase of $17.5 million, or 9.8 percent.
The increase in the judicial budget is primarily due to requests for (1) expansion of the child support enforcement court program ($30 million in reimbursements from the Department of Social Services), (2) caseload and rate increases for court appointed counsel services ($7.5 million from the General Fund), (3) new programs in the Judicial Council and Administrative Office of the Courts ($6 million), and (4) court technology improvements ($3.4 million). We discuss some of these proposals below.
The budget proposes $56 million from the General Fund for the Court Appointed Counsel Program in 1997-98 for the Supreme Court ($10.4 million) and the courts of appeal ($45.4 million). This is an increase of $7.5 million, or 16 percent, over the current-year amount. (For more information on the court appointed counsel program please see the crosscutting issue on death penalty appeals earlier in this chapter).
In the current year, the Judicial Council proposed a deficiency augmentation of $954,000 for increased costs related to projected caseload growth in the program in the Supreme Court. The budget proposes to continue this augmentation in 1997-98. However, updated expenditure data indicate that the amount originally appropriated for the program in the Supreme Court is likely to actually exceed anticipated expenditures in the current year, thus eliminating the need for the current year deficiency and the augmentation to the base budget for 1997-98. For this reason, we recommend that the $954,000 be deleted from this program.
The Court Appointed Counsel Program hires private attorneys to provide appellate defense services for indigent persons. These attorneys work under the supervision of five regional appellate projects. The projects, which are nonprofit corporations, recruit attorneys to take on cases, supervise and train attorneys who are handling cases, and process reimbursement claims submitted by the attorneys.
Program's Budget Has Been Growing Significantly. Since 1993-94, expenditures for the Court Appointed Counsel Program have increased 45 percent, or at an average annual rate of 9.8 percent. This program now accounts for 28 percent of the Judicial Branch's General Fund budget. The primary reasons for the growth have been the increases in the number of appeals filed, combined with the increasing complexity of those cases, and increases in rates paid to attorneys under the program.
Rates Paid to Private Attorneys Have Been Increasing. Since 1994-95, there have been several increases in the rates paid to attorneys who handle appeals cases in the courts of appeal and in the Supreme Court. Figure 36 shows the current and proposed rates for the various types of cases.
|Court Appointed Counsel Program
Hourly Rates for Attorneys
Handling Cases On Appeal
|Type of Case||1996-97||Proposed
Increase Over 1996-97
|Courts of Appeal|
|Any case with assistance||$65||$65||--|
|Cases without assistance:|
|All other cases||65||70||8|
In the courts of appeal, the basic rate for cases where assistance and supervision is provided to the attorney is $65 per hour. A somewhat higher rate of $75 per hour is paid for the following complex cases where the attorney works "independently" (without assistance and supervision): (1) non-death penalty murder, (2) sentences of life without the possibility of parole, (3) multiple sex crimes, and (4) cases with court records in excess of 3,000 pages.
For attorneys handling death penalty appeal cases, the pay rate was increased from $75 per hour to $95 per hour in 1995-96. In the current year, the Legislature authorized an increase to $98 per hour to equalize the rate paid to private defense attorneys with the reimbursement rate charged by the Attorney General's Office which prosecutes such cases.
Proposal for 1997-98. The base rate for those attorneys who require assistance and supervision would remain at $65 per hour. However, in order to retain the most experienced attorneys, the budget proposes to increase the rates paid to attorneys who work independently. The rate paid to such attorneys handling more complex cases (non-death penalty murder, etc.) would increase to $85 per hour. The rate for all other cases worked independently by an attorney would be increased to $70 per hour.
In addition, the budget proposes to increase the rate for new capital case appointments from $98 per hour to $125 per hour.
Additional Information Needed. The 1996-97 Budget Act required the Judicial Council to submit a report to the Legislature with recommendations for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the appointed counsel program. We believe that the Legislature should examine the Council's recommendations prior to approving another rate increase. Thus, we withhold recommendation on the proposed rate increases pending receipt and analysis of the Judicial Council report, and an analysis of the impact of past rate changes on the program. The report is expected to be released by the Judicial Council before the end of February.
The budget proposes $322,000 from the General Fund to fund the costs of MSAs of 5 percent for eligible judicial employees in 1997-98. Other than the judicial branch, the only other General Fund departments with MSAs proposed in the budget are the Franchise Tax Board and the Board of Equalization (which are considered General Fund revenue-generating departments), and the Department of Corrections.
We recommend that this augmentation be deleted for two reasons. First, we can find no analytical basis for augmenting the judicial budget for MSAs at a time when other departments and agencies must absorb the costs within their budgets.
Second, salary savings may be underestimated for the budget year, which will give the judiciary flexibility in funding its MSAs internally. The budget proposes a salary savings rate that averages 3.5 percent for the judiciary. An analysis of the actual salary savings for the judiciary from the 1990-91 through 1995-96 indicates that the salary savings rate was nearly 7 percent. To the extent that actual salary expenditures continue this historical trend, the proposed budget for salaries is overbudgeted by up to $2.4 million. The judiciary could use these funds to support their MSAs. For these reasons, we recommend a General Fund reduction of $322,000.
The budget requests $500,000 to begin implementation of a new, computer-based appellate court document management system in 1997-98. Specifically, the proposal requests funding to purchase equipment, software, and contract consulting services to begin putting into place a system that would enable the appellate courts to process appellate case files electronically. The system would be installed in all six appellate court districts with implementation phased-in beginning with the First District Court of Appeals in 1997-98. The system would be implemented in the other districts in subsequent years.
The Judicial Council indicates that hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent statewide annually on storing and handling inactive court records. In response to the need for improved records management, the council contracted for an appellate records management feasibility study that was completed in November 1996. The feasibility study report (FSR) indicated that the current manual processing system is labor intensive and time consuming.
We acknowledge the importance of court record modernization and concur that this is an area that would likely benefit from improved uses of technology. However, for the reasons discussed below, we believe that statewide implementation in 1997-98 is premature.
Request for Funding Premature Pending Results of Pilot Projects. The Judicial Council indicates that in the current year, consistent with recommendations in the FSR, it will establish a series of pilot programs that will result in the development of a request for proposal (RFP) by September 1997 for procurement and installation of document management equipment in 1997-98.
We concur with this pilot project approach. However, we believe that the proposed funding for system implementation in the budget year is premature. Until the pilot programs have been completed and evaluated, the Legislature will not have adequate information to assess the full costs and potential savings of the new program. In addition, such pilots will help to answer questions which were not addressed by the FSR. Specifically, the FSR did not identify a specific method of implementation nor did it quantify the costs and benefits associated with the implementation of the project.
Analyst's Recommendation. For these reasons, we believe that the funding request for the implementation of the project is premature, and we recommend a reduction of $500,000.
The budget proposes $6 million and 31.5 positions generally related to the expanded use of information technology, judicial branch infrastructure, and trial court outreach and assistance. Although many of the requests have merit, we recommend reductions to several requests due primarily to insufficient justification for the proposals. The specific issues are highlighted below.
In addition to the concerns expressed above regarding new programs, we have concerns about three other requests:
In summary, we recommend a total reduction of $1.3 million and 7.5 positions.
During the course of reviewing the Council's budget we discovered that, unlike most departments and agencies of state government, it does not submit a Supplementary Schedule of Operating Expenses and Equipment (Schedule 11) along with its annual budget request.
This schedule, which details how much money the department has budgeted for basic operating expenses, such as travel, facilities operations, training, consulting services, and equipment, provides valuable information for the Legislature to review proposed expenditures. Although the judiciary is a separate branch of government, we believe that the Legislature needs this information, especially in light of the fact that the Judicial Council is requesting a substantial increase (26 percent) in its budget and a large number of new programs. For this reason, we recommend that the Legislature adopt supplemental report language directing the Judicial Council to complete such a schedule as part of its 1998-99 budget proposal. Specifically, we recommend the following language:
It is the intent of the Legislature that the Judicial Council prepare and submit a standard Supplementary Schedule of Operating Expenses and Equipment (Schedule 11) along with its 1998-99 budget proposal.
The budget proposes $37.5 million in reimbursements from the Department of Social Services (DSS) for implementation of a new child support court commissioner system in the state's trial courts. This is an increase of $30 million over estimated expenditures in the current year. Under the new system, court commissions would be dedicated specifically to the establishment of child support paternity and support orders. The reimbursements would support 50 new court commissioners and support staff, child support information and assistance centers, and five administrative positions at the Judicial Council.
In our analysis of the DSS (please see the Health and Social Services chapter of this Analysis), we note that the Judicial Council staff is developing caseload and staffing standards for the commissioners and support staff. The standards, which are expected to be completed in April, should provide better information on the number of commissioners required statewide, and the projected costs per commissioner. Thus, we withhold recommendation on the funds requested in the DSS budget and the requested reimbursements in the judicial budget pending the development of caseload and staffing standards for the commissioners and support staff.
The budget proposes total expenditures of $387 million for support of the DOJ in the budget year. This amount is $4.6 million, or 1.2 percent, less than estimated current-year expenditures. The requested amount includes $220 million from the General Fund (a decrease of $3.7 million, or 1.6 percent), $63 million from special funds, $15.3 million from federal funds, and $88.1 million from reimbursements. The total budget for the DOJ is decreasing primarily due to the number of limited term programs that are expiring and other baseline adjustments that total $25.8 million. The budget seeks an additional $21.2 million for workload and program changes.
In the legal divisions, the budget proposes funding increases for the Criminal Law Division ($2 million), the Public Rights Division ($381,000) and the Civil Law Division ($209,000). The budget also proposes a net increase of $1.5 for the Division of Law Enforcement (DLE), as well as decreases totaling $7.5 million for State Mandated local programs, such as reporting requirements that are no longer mandated due to legislation that has expired.
The budget requests $11.6 million for the department's Correctional Law Section within the Criminal Law Division. This amount includes an increase of $585,000 from the General Fund and 6.6 positions for workload increases for civil lawsuits brought against the state by prison inmates (non-class-action cases). The request assumes increased workload resulting from growth in the state's prison population during the budget year. The DOJ projects for the budget year that the section will handle an additional 211 lawsuits (over the actual 1995-96 level), based on projections of increased inmate population.
Recent Steps to Curb Inmate Lawsuits. In last year's Analysis, we called attention to the growing cost to defend the state correctional system against lawsuits filed by inmates and correctional personnel. Litigation and settlement costs were projected to reach $35 million in the current year, an increase of 14 percent in two years.
The rising number of lawsuits against prison systems in California and in other states has prompted the Legislature and Congress to take steps to deter inmates from filing frivolous suits in both state and federal courts. For example, the Legislature enacted measures last year designed to deter inmates from filing lawsuits by (1) strengthening the collection of court filing fees charged to inmates who file civil suits in state courts (Chapter 886, Statutes of 1996 [AB 2563, Goldsmith]) and (2) revoking credits that inmates can earn to reduce their time in prison if they file frivolous cases (Chapter 852, Statutes of 1996 [AB 881, Rogan]).
In April 1996, the President signed into law the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which affects inmate filings in federal courts. The PRLA provides that (1) inmate litigants must pay court filing fees (previously fees were waived), (2) courts must pre-screen all inmate suits before ordering a hearing, (3) inmates must exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a case, (4) judges may revoke a prisoner's good-behavior credits for filing a frivolous suits, and (5) proof of physical injury must be established before inmates can seek money damages for mental or emotional distress.
Proposal Not Justified. We recommend that the proposed increase be deleted because it is not justified on a workload basis. First, the DOJ has indicated that in recent months, the new fees in federal courts have had a deterrent effect of reducing the numbers of new individual civil rights actions being filed by inmates. However, the workload assumptions do not account for this effect.
Second, The overall number of lawsuits filed per inmate has been dropping over the last couple of years. For example, it dropped from 8.1 per 1,000 inmates in 1993-94, to 7.1 per 1,000 in 1994-95, to 6.5 in 1995-96--the latest year for which actual data are available. However, the budget request assumes that the rate will increase to the 1994-95 level (7.1 per 1,000). We see no justification for this assumption. Further, the DOJ assumes that the total number of new lawsuits filed for the current year will be 1,062. As of the end of December 1996, however, only 286 new lawsuits had been filed. If this pace continues, the current year base would be overstated by half.
Finally, we note that the state prison population is currently substantially below the levels projected in the Governor's budget. Although it is too early to determine whether this trend will continue in 1997-98, it seems unlikely that the population will increase to the levels originally assumed in the budget, which were the basis for the DOJ's projected workload.
Analyst's Recommendation. For these reasons, we recommend that the request for $585,000 and 6.6 positions be denied.
Chapter 140, Statutes of 1994 (AB 167, B. Friedman) created the Battered Women Protection Act of 1994. The measure established a variety of programs, including a spousal abuser prosecution program within the DOJ. The 1994-95 and 1995-96 Budget Acts appropriated $3.5 million each year to the DOJ for district attorneys to prosecute domestic violence cases under the program. While the statutory authority for the program terminated at the end of 1995-96, the program was funded again in the 1996-97 Budget Act. The DOJ's budget requests $3.5 million from the General Fund to continue this program in 1997-98.
While this particular program for local prosecutors was placed in the DOJ, the state has other similar programs administered by the Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP). For example, the OCJP is responsible for grant programs for domestic violence, rape crisis, and battered women.
Because of its responsibility as the state's primary federal criminal justice grant agency, the OCJP will also administer the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants. The state has received VAWA grant awards of $10.5 million for the current year and $10.7 million for the budget year. These grant monies can be used for a variety of local assistance purposes that reduce the incidence and effects of violence against women. The grant requires that at least 25 percent of the total state award must be used for improving prosecution efforts. We believe that the program established in Chapter 140 would be eligible for VAWA funding.
Thus, the Legislature may wish to consider using federal funds for this program. We estimate that VAWA monies totaling at least $2.7 million each year for the current year and the budget year are available to support prosecution programs like the ones proposed for funding in the DOJ. The Legislature could use part of this federal funds to offset the state's General Fund expenditures of $3.5 million.
We discuss the VAWA program in more detail in our analysis of the OCJP later in this chapter.
Under current law, the DOJ is required to maintain a number of criminal justice information systems for law enforcement agencies. The DOJ's Division of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) processes a variety of documents from local law enforcement agencies, the courts, and the CDC. The CJIS receives, examines, and stores fingerprints in one of the largest automated fingerprint systems in the world, larger than that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The CJIS fingerprint system (CAL-ID) stores fingerprint data on all those convicted of a crime in California. The system is used for criminal investigations and for establishing whether arrestees, CDC inmates, or applicants for jobs (such as teachers and child care workers) have criminal records.
In addition, CJIS maintains the state's criminal history systems, including the automated files that record arrests and dispositions. The arrest file lists the specific offenses for which an individual has been arrested; the disposition file lists all offenses for which an individual has been convicted (or any other court disposition).
Previous Backlogs. In our Analysis of the 1995-96 Budget Bill, we reported that the DOJ had backlogs of up to one year in recording disposition data. In last year's Analysis, we pointed out that the backlog had grown to more than 18 months. Consequently, it was taking more than a year and a half after the conviction had occurred before that information was entered into the DOJ's systems for use by law enforcement agencies and the courts.
As we reported in last year's Analysis, a backlog of conviction histories could be detrimental to implementing the "Three Strikes" law, especially the ability of prosecutors to obtain accurate information on the background of an offender before charging a second- or third-strike. In addition, jail administrators need to have accurate data on offenders' prior convictions when deciding what level of security is needed in housing the offender.
As we discuss below, the CJIS has reduced its criminal history backlogs, but significant backlogs continue in its processing of the California Department of Corrections (CDC) inmate fingerprints.
Conviction File Backlogs for Felonies and Firearms Crimes Significantly Reduced. We reported in last year's Analysis that the DOJ had taken a series of steps to reduce the inventory of backlogged documents. The DOJ indicated that its goal was to ensure that the backlog of criminal conviction histories for individuals convicted of felonies or crimes where a firearm was used, be reduced to 30 days by January 1, 1997. Consequently, it concentrated its efforts on identifying and processing these records first. In December 1995, there were more than 129,000 of these types of dispositions awaiting processing. However, the CJIS reports that, as of December 1996, the number of documents for felony and firearm convictions has been reduced to 30,000 records, which it considers a normal inventory.
The CJIS reports that the total number of other types of documents awaiting processing, such as misdemeanor convictions and records of no conviction, is about 825,000 documents. In contrast, at this time last year, there were almost 1.3 million such documents awaiting processing. The CJIS projects that it will reach a 30-day turnaround time for these records by July 1997, or about 7 months behind its target date.
Backlog of CDC Fingerprints Reduced, But Still Substantial. The CJIS reports that it has reduced its backlog for processing CDC inmate fingerprints from three years in November 1995, to 18 months in December 1996. Nevertheless, since the average amount of time served in prison by CDC inmates is 16 months, an 18-month backlog means that the CDC gets information for many inmates after they have been released. Fingerprint checks of inmates ensure that the inmate's identity and criminal history is verified, which are important elements for determining the security classification of the inmate. There were 200,000 CDC inmate fingerprint documents awaiting processing as of December 1996. The CJIS projects it will reach a 30 day turnaround for processing inmate fingerprint records by July 1997.
Analyst's Recommendation. We believe that the DOJ deserves credit for making substantial progress in reducing its backlogs of criminal histories and CDC fingerprints. However, given the importance of ensuring that the state's criminal history information is current and usable by law enforcement agencies, the CDC, and the courts, we recommend that the DOJ submit a plan to the fiscal committees prior to budget hearings on how it will meet its target dates for reducing backlogs and ensure that criminal history and CDC fingerprint backlogs are eliminated by July 1997. The plan should also identify how the department will ensure that backlogs do not reoccur in the budget and future years. In addition, the DOJ should provide the Legislature with: (1) the status of the backlog in the disposition history files within the Criminal History System and (2) the status of CDC inmate fingerprints.
The DNA identification method, also known as "genetic fingerprinting," uses specimens left at a crime scene to identify an offender. The DOJ operates a DNA laboratory in Berkeley for the examination of DNA samples; the laboratory also serves as a repository of DNA records of convicted sex offenders and other violent criminals. In addition, the laboratory is responsible for storing samples of DNA evidence obtained from unsolved crimes.
The DOJ is charged with the responsibility of providing law enforcement agencies with complete files of information on habitual sexual offenders. Consequently, the laboratory's highest priority is the DNA analysis of samples from sexual offenders who are released from CDC. By maintaining a databank with DNA profiles of these convicted sex offenders, DOJ can greatly increase the likelihood of apprehending and convicting offenders if they commit a new crime. Chapter 6x, Statutes of 1994 (SB 12x, Thompson), appropriated almost $2 million for a databank containing DNA samples from convicted sex offenders and other violent offenders, and DNA profiles of evidence obtained from unsolved sex crimes.
DNA Backlogs for Sex Offenders Have Been Reduced. In last year's Analysis, we reported that the DNA laboratory has had a continuing backlog of samples awaiting analysis. The funds provided in Chapter 6 were used to automate the system for DNA tests. As a result of this automation, the DOJ was able to reduce its backlog of samples awaiting analysis from almost 26,000 in January 1996 to 13,900 samples in December 1996. The DOJ reports that it will eliminate the sex offender backlog by June 30, 1997. All of these samples are now part of a searchable DNA database that allows the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies to use samples from new crimes and identify suspects from the database, in a manner similar to identifying offenders from latent fingerprints.
Backlogs Persist in Processing Other Violent Offender Samples. In addition to processing the DNA of certain sex offenders, the DOJ is responsible for analyzing and placing DNA profiles of other violent offenders into its DNA database. Based on data provided by the DOJ in December 1996, there remains a backlog of over 55,000 of these samples to be analyzed. The DOJ does not have a goal for reducing this backlog.
Analyst's Recommendation. We recommend that the DOJ submit a plan to the fiscal committees prior to budget hearings on how it will ensure that DNA backlogs for sex offenders are eliminated by its target date of June 30, 1997 and how it will ensure that backlogs do not reoccur in the budget and future years. In addition, the DOJ should provide the Legislature with its plan for reducing backlogs in analyzing DNA samples of other violent offenders.
Background. The DOJ operates ten regional criminalistic laboratories throughout the state. These laboratories provide analysis of various types of physical evidence and controlled substances. In addition, they assist local law enforcement agencies, when requested, in processing and analyzing crime scene evidence, including clandestine drug laboratories. Figure 37 shows the number and types of services provided by the DOJ laboratories.
|Department of Justice
Tests Processed by Criminalistic Laboratories
As the figure shows, tests for controlled substances have grown at an annual rate of more than 11 percent since 1990-91, notwithstanding a slight reduction in growth in 1995-96. Tests of blood alcohol decreased significantly--more than 35 percent between 1990-91 and 1995-96. This decline is primarily because the DOJ began charging local agencies for the costs of these tests. In 1992-93 when fees were established, the number of tests declined 29 percent, with many local agencies contracting with other laboratories for their blood alcohol testing. By contracting with other providers who charged less than the state, these agencies were able to reduce their costs for these types of tests.
In addition to the regional laboratories, the department also operates a state DNA laboratory in Berkeley for analyzing DNA samples from sex and violent offenders. This laboratory also maintains a DNA database, similar to the state's fingerprint database, for aiding law enforcement agencies in identifying suspects. The department also operates an institute for training criminalists from throughout the state.
State Provides Free Service to Locals and Other State Agencies. The department's crime laboratories provide analyses and investigative services to state departments such as the California Highway Patrol and the DOJ's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. The vast majority of the laboratories workload, however, is providing services to local law enforcement agencies. With the exception of fees paid for blood alcohol analyses, state and local agencies receive all other services at no charge. In the current year, we estimate that these services will cost the state about $16 million from the General Fund.
Local Governments Should Fund Local Responsibilities. In California, local governments generally are responsible for law enforcement, including investigating and prosecuting crimes. Part of that responsibility includes developing physical evidence, some of which requires laboratory analysis and testing services. Because these services are integral to the overall law enforcement responsibility of local governments, these costs reasonably should be borne by the counties and cities. We believe that this would appropriately align local government's funding and programmatic responsibilities for investigation and prosecution activities.
We note that 20 local law enforcement agencies--county sheriffs, district attorneys, or city police departments--have taken this step by operating and funding their own crime laboratories. These entities have chosen to make an investment in facilities and services in order to meet their law enforcement needs. These laboratories do not provide all of the tests available from the DOJ laboratories, but all provide the most common services, such as controlled substances testing.
We recognize that our recommendation would result in additional costs to those local governments that currently receive free laboratory services from the state. We would note, however, that there are funding sources available to local government. First, under existing law, counties have the authority to establish special funding sources from criminal fine revenues to cover the costs for crime laboratory work. (In fact, Sacramento County used this funding source to build its recently completed crime laboratory.) Second, the 1996-97 Budget Act appropriated $100 million to local governments for law enforcement activities. Of this amount, $87.5 million was provided to police, sheriffs, and district attorneys which could be used for their laboratory costs. The Governor's budget proposes to continue that same level of funding in 1997-98. (We discuss this proposal in The 1997-98 Budget: Perspectives and Issues).
Finally, we note that local governments have several options for obtaining these laboratory services, some of which may be less costly and more effective than obtaining the services from the state. For example, they could contract with other local agencies' laboratories or contract with private sector laboratories.
State Agencies Should Also Pay for Services. In addition to local law enforcement, state law enforcement agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and DOJ's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, use the services of the BFS laboratories. In our view, these entities should also reimburse the DOJ for services. The reimbursements could be structured in a similar way to the method used by the DOJ to allocate attorney services to state departments. Most of these agencies receive either special funds or federal funds for their law enforcement operations. Requiring reimbursements from these agencies would reflect the true costs of providing law enforcement services and would allow for funding sources other than the General Fund, such as federal anti-drug program monies, to be used for DOJ laboratory services.
Analyst's Recommendation. For these reasons, we recommend that legislation be enacted to require that the DOJ charge state and local agencies for the costs of laboratory services. As an alternative, if the Legislature does not want to charge state and local agencies for all of the costs associated with laboratory services or wishes to phase-in the charges over time, it may require users to pay some portion of the costs.
Rationale for Regional Laboratories. The DOJ's current system for providing laboratory services relies on a system of regional laboratories. Only the DOJ's DNA laboratory provides statewide services. This system was appropriate when the laboratory system was developed, when transportation of evidence was more difficult and access to certain parts of the state was limited. However, many of those constraints no longer exist. The entire state is easily served by courier and other services that greatly reduce the amount of time necessary to transport materials from one end of the state to the other. In addition, methods for preserving evidence and other samples have improved.
State of the Regional Laboratories. As we note in our capital outlay review of DOJ construction projects (please see the Capital Outlay chapter of this Analysis), the DOJ is proposing to replace four of its regional criminalistics laboratories. The estimated total cost of replacing these laboratories is $21.7 million. The DOJ has indicated that it wishes to replace two other laboratories in the future. According to the DOJ, many of its regional laboratories are housed in crowded or substandard spaces. In addition, the DOJ advises that, because of the poor facilities, there are increased chances for inaccurate test results and consequent improper court outcomes, as well as the possible loss of accreditation. The DOJ is seeking to rectify the problems with its regional laboratories by building new regional laboratories to replace the existing ones.
Declining Demand for Services. We believe that, requiring reimbursement for state-provided services, as we recommend above, will create a competitive environment in which local and state agencies would choose among a variety of options for obtaining laboratory services, based on their particular needs and the costs of the various services. While it is not possible to estimate with precision how each agency would obtain its services, it is clear that the state's workload would likely decline as some entities choose options other than to use the state laboratories. As we indicated earlier, when the state began charging for blood alcohol tests, local agency usage of the DOJ laboratories declined 29 percent in the first year after the fees were established.
DOJ Should Consider Alternatives for Providing Laboratory Services. The DOJ has not proposed any alternatives to its proposal of replacing its six laboratories. For example, the DOJ has not considered consolidation of its laboratories or reducing the number of laboratories. A reduced number, or a single consolidated laboratory, could offer all criminalistic services. Agencies throughout the state that would choose to use the DOJ's services would send materials to these laboratories. The DOJ could begin its consolidation efforts by closing those laboratories that it believes are substandard or most in need of replacement. The workload, along with necessary equipment and staff, for these laboratories could be transferred to other existing laboratories.
Alternatively, the DOJ might establish separate specialized laboratories that offer only certain types of services, such as ballistics, controlled substances testing, or serology tests. In this scenario, the DOJ would realize savings, because it would not have to provide expensive, specialized scientific equipment at every laboratory. In addition, with specialized laboratories, expertise among staff would be concentrated providing better service for all DOJ laboratory users. It was for these reasons that the state consolidated its DNA analysis at its Berkeley laboratory.
If the DOJ begins considering now how it can most effectively provide services, it could avoid a piecemeal approach to reducing services if demand decreases. Moreover, by considering alternate ways of providing laboratory services--especially if those alternatives reduced the DOJ's costs--the state might provide improved services at lower fees to both local and state agencies.
Analyst's Recommendation. We recommend that the DOJ provide a report to the fiscal committees prior to budget hearings on alternative methods of providing criminalistic laboratory services. The plan should review alternatives that would address the potential reduction in the demand for state services as a consequence of implementing fees for laboratory services and that would eliminate the need for costly laboratory replacement. Even if the Legislature does not approve fees for DOJ laboratory services, we believe that a report would allow the DOJ to explore options that could potentially result in more effective service and lower costs to the state.
The DOJ is requesting $281,000 for the budget year and for 1998-99, to defray the costs of temporarily relocating its Modesto laboratory. The laboratory is currently located at the Yosemite Community College. The college has informed the DOJ that it must move its laboratory off of the campus by August 1997. The requested funds will pay to relocate the laboratory to a temporary site, pending the construction of a permanent laboratory. The DOJ, in its capital outlay request (please see the Capital Outlay chapter of this Analysis), has requested funding to build a new laboratory.
As noted above, we believe that the Legislature should direct the DOJ to establish fees for services and consider consolidating its forensic laboratories. Consequently, we withhold recommendation on this proposal, pending the Legislature's decision on these issues.
Background. The laws of the Republic of Mexico allow for the prosecution in Mexico of Mexican citizens who commit violent crimes in the United States and flee to Mexico. Mexican law allows for the prosecution of any of its citizens providing, that the individual can be located in Mexico, it can be proved that the individual has not been tried in the United States, and the crime for which the individual is being prosecuted is also a crime in Mexico. Consequently, when a Mexican national commits an offense in California, flees to Mexico, and his or her location in Mexico is known, California law enforcement representatives can go directly to the Mexican Federal Prosecutor and file a complaint. Based on these complaints, Mexican authorities will apprehend, prosecute, and if convicted, incarcerate the individual in a Mexican prison. Although Mexican prosecution under its Federal Penal Code allows for prosecution of all major crimes, the law has been used almost exclusively for homicides.
Since 1975, the DOJ has authorized special agents to enter the Republic of Mexico and file foreign prosecution cases for state and local law enforcement agencies. The program, known as the Foreign Prosecution Program, currently operates out of the DOJ's San Diego field office. Since 1981, 39 fugitives from California have been apprehended, tried, and convicted in Mexico. The cases came from more than 25 different law enforcement agencies. All of the cases involved homicide, except for a 1996 case involving a serious sexual offense.
In addition to the DOJ program, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles Police Department also have full-time staff assigned to foreign prosecution efforts.
The DOJ Plans to Expand Its Program. As part of its 1997-98 budget, the DOJ is requesting $321,000 from the General Fund to expand the Foreign Prosecution Program. Currently, two agents are assigned to the program full-time. These agents investigate an average of 30 cases a year, the majority of which are referred to the program by local law enforcement agencies throughout the state. The DOJ request is to add two more agents and a full-time document translator to the program. The DOJ estimates that it can more than double the number of cases it investigates and also increase the number of complaints it files in Mexico. The DOJ has informed us that it will also use the new personnel to seek similar foreign prosecutions for citizens of other countries where the native countries allow it.
We recommend that the Legislature approve the request. All of the costs of prosecution (except for filing the complaint with Mexican authorities) and incarceration of felons are borne by the Republic of Mexico. In addition, the average sentence for those convicted under the current program has been 25 years, thus, saving the state potential incarceration costs. In those instances where a suspect has fled to Mexico, and does not return, use of the program is the only way that the offender can be brought to justice.
Legislation Needed to Designate DOJ as the Lead for State. While there is no need for legislation to implement this program, we believe that legislation is needed to ensure the most effective use of foreign prosecution. The legislation we are recommending should contain two features.
First, the DOJ should be designated as the lead agency for all foreign prosecutions thereby ensuring that Mexican authorities have a single point of contact for prosecutions. Using the DOJ as the lead state agency for these prosecutions would enhance coordination of efforts between the Mexican government and California law enforcement agencies.
Second, the legislation should require that the DOJ provide information and guidance on the scope and uses of foreign prosecution to California prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. By providing such instruction, local law enforcement agencies will be able to more effectively use the program.
Background. Local law enforcement agencies commit significant resources to solving homicides. Investigators work with both physical evidence obtained from the crime scene and exhaust all witness "leads." When the physical evidence and leads have been fully investigated, but the homicide remains unsolved, the case is placed in an inactive status and evidence collected is stored indefinitely. The DOJ reports that there are more than 8,000 unsolved homicides in California. Inactive homicide cases are known as "old and cold" cases. Currently, the DOJ will aid local law enforcement agencies with active cases, by providing crime scene analysis, forensic laboratory tests, and other investigation requests.
In recent years, there have been a number of technological advances in forensic science. For example, latent fingerprints that had previously been unuseable can now be made visible with new laser-assisted techniques. In addition, the DOJ's DNA database now contains a large number of records for known sex offenders. Consequently, old serological evidence can now be tested for DNA and matched against known offenders. Finally, the DOJ has developed an automated system for the examination and identification of recovered firearm evidence. All of these techniques and databases have only been available in the past two years. Consequently, the new techniques could be applied to the unsolved homicide cases in order to develop new leads and possibly solve the cases.
The DOJ Proposal. The DOJ is requesting $266,000 from the General Fund to form a two-year pilot team of forensic specialists that would identify and re-open "old and cold" homicides; applying the new forensic techniques to stored physical evidence. The team would consist of a special agent, a senior criminalist, and a latent fingerprint analyst. The team would select inactive homicide cases from various law enforcement agencies in Northern California.
The DOJ does not currently investigate these homicides. As a result, it does not have data on the number of cases that will be examined and investigated. In addition, the DOJ has informed us, that since this is a new program, it has not yet developed a system for tracking and reporting the results of its proposed pilot program.
Analyst's Recommendation. We recommend approval of this proposal because of the DOJ's statewide jurisdiction and because it is responsible for maintaining the state-level databases that will be used for examining inactive cases. However, because the DOJ does not have data on the number of cases that will be investigated and has not developed a system for tracking the progress of the pilot project, we recommend that the Legislature adopt budget bill language limiting the use of these funds. In that way, the Legislature can ensure that the funds are used for these investigations.
Specifically, we recommend the adoption of the following budget bill language:
Of the funds appropriated in this item, $266,000 is available for the Northern California pilot program for investigating inactive homicide cases. Any funds not used for this purpose shall revert to the General Fund.
We also recommend that the Legislature adopt the following supplemental report language reporting on the number of cases investigated, the results of the investigations, which law enforcement agencies received services, and the cost of conducting each investigation:
The Department of Justice shall submit a report to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Legislature's fiscal committees by June 30, 1998, on the unsolved homicide pilot. The report should include the following information: (1) the number of cases selected for review; (2) the number of cases re-opened and investigated; (3) the results of the investigations; (4) the original law enforcement agency responsible for the investigated cases; and, (5) the costs of each investigation.
The budget proposes expenditures for this office of $158 million in 1997-98, including $36.1 million from the General fund. This is about $309,000, or about 0.2 percent, more than estimated current expenditures. The increase is due to increases in federal grant programs.
Background. As part of the Federal crime bill, Congress and the President established the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The VAWA program was established to assist states, Indian tribal groups, and local governments to develop and strengthen law enforcement and prosecution of violent crimes against women, and to develop and strengthen services for women who are victims of violent crimes.
The administration estimates expenditures of $10.5 million in the current year and $10.7 million in the budget year in federal VAWA funds. The Department of Finance requested authority to expend $10.5 million in the current year pursuant to Section 28.00. However, the Chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee suggested that the director not authorize the current-year expenditures until the OCJP's expenditure plan had been reviewed by the budget subcommittees.
VAWA Program Options. The Legislature has signficiant flexibility within broad categories to spend the VAWA funds. The VAWA specifies that 25 percent of the grant be allocated to law enforcement, 25 percent to prosecution, and 25 percent to victims services. The remaining 25 percent can be allocated on a discretionary basis. As a consequence, approximately $2.8 million annually will be available for each category of spending. Because the state has already received two years of appropriations, there is $5.6 million available for each category of funding at present. The funds can be used for developing training, providing training, developing new law enforcement and prosecution techniques, data collection, communications, information technology, and creating or expanding appropriate services. Grant recipients must provide a 25 percent match that can be cash or in-kind services. The state must ensure that funds are distributed equitably throughout the state, with emphasis on distribution to "underserved areas."
Current- and Budget-Year Expenditure Plans. An OCJP task force developed a spending plan for the current year that allocated funds for one-time projects, such as the creation of new types of training or consulting contracts. In addition, the plan called for local assistance contracts that would provide multiyear funding for different types of services. No spending plan has been developed for the budget year.
While we found no analytical basis for recommending against any of the task force's proposals, we note that the task force priorities may differ from those of the Legislature. In addition, the task force has not developed a spending plan for the budget year. Federal funds are available throughout the grant period, and must be committed in the year of the appropriation. Consequently, the deadline for allocating the current year appropriation is September 30, 1997 and budget year funds have to be committed before September 30, 1998.
It is important to note that the state is likely to continue to receive at least $10 million annually under the program through 2001-02. The Legislature has substantial discretion on how it wishes to spend these funds.
Background. In 1995, as part of his initiative to reduce teenage pregnancy, the Governor initiated and the Legislature established the Statutory Rape Vertical Prosecution (SRVP) program. Generally, prosecution of any rapist, including statutory rapists, is a local responsibility. Under current law, local prosecutors have the authority to prosecute statutory rape cases at their discretion. The SRVP program provides financial support to prosecutors so that a single prosecutor, or team of prosecutors, is responsible for a case from referral to conviction. This type of prosecutorial model has been used with success for major narcotics vendors and habitual violent offenders.
The SRVP program is intended to identify and prosecute those adult males who commit statutory rape in cases where a minor female becomes pregnant. The father is identified by social services agencies from birth certificate data. According to the OCJP, the program is intended to "send a clear message that such behavior is criminal and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Budget Proposal. The 1995-96 Budget Act appropriated $2.4 million from the General Fund for the initiation of a 16-county pilot project for vertical prosecution of statutory rapists. Each county was awarded $150,000 to establish a program. The pilot began December 1, 1995. The 1996-97 Budget Act appropriated $8.4 million from the General Fund and expanded the program to all 58 counties. The OCJP is requesting the same amount to continue the program in the budget year.
First Evaluation Report Submitted. Last year, the Legislature adopted supplemental report language directing OCJP to provide an evaluation of the program to the Legislature on January 1, 1997, and January 1, 1998. A report was submitted to the Legislature in January 1997, detailing the program activities in the pilot counties through October 31, 1996.
Pilot Program Resulted in Small Number of Convictions. We have reviewed the data on the initial pilot program during the period in which pilot counties each received $150,000 for prosecutorial efforts. Although the data represented only a seven-month period (from December 1, 1995 through June 30, 1996), it appears that the program has resulted in a relatively small number of convictions.
Data from the period show that 1,267 cases were referred to county prosecutors. Prosecutors filed charges in 512 of the cases and prosecuted 304 individuals (about 24 percent of all referrals). Some counties had much lower rates of prosecution. For example, Los Angeles County prosecutors received 149 referrals, but prosecuted only 8 cases. San Bernardino County prosecutors received 223 referrals, but prosecuted only 9 cases.
For those cases that the pilot counties prosecuted, there were 197 convictions (6 of the cases went to trial, the remaining 191 cases were resolved with a plea bargain). Only two of the cases in Los Angeles County and five in San Bernardino County resulted in a convictions.
High Program Costs. Although expenditures in the pilot counties resulted in a relatively limited number of cases filed and convictions, the costs for the prosecution of these cases were significant. For the period we reviewed, the average cost of prosecution was $7,900. However, if the cost per conviction is evaluated, the average cost was $12,200 per conviction. The range of cost per conviction among the counties was from $5,400 to $75,000.
No Program Measures. With the exception of tracking referrals, charges filed, prosecutions, and dispositions, there has not been an attempt to determine if the prosecution efforts have resulted in the behavioral changes desired.
Conclusion. Given the small number of prosecutions and the relatively high costs of the program, it is not clear whether the SRVP program is cost-effective. Thus, it will be especially important for the Legislature to examine the final evaluation report which OCJP is required to submit on January 1, 1998, to determine whether to continue or modify the program. Should the Legislature conclude that the program is not cost-effective, it may wish to use the $8.4 million allocated for the program for some other program designed to prevent teenage pregnancy