Analysis of the 2007-08 Budget Bill: Judicial and Criminal Justice
The budget plan proposes to create a new $50 million program, that would eventually grow to $100 million, intended to improve supervision and treatment services for probationers age 18 to 25. We recommend that this new program be scaled back to a $5 million pilot project and that $25 million of the remaining funding be shifted to expand Proposition 36 programs. This approach would more likely achieve the intended goal of reducing inmate and jail populations. It also would result in a net General Fund savings of $20 million relative to the Governor’s budget plan. (Reduce Item 5225-101-0001 by $45 million.)
New Probation Program Proposed. The administration has proposed to establish a program in 2007-08 that would provide grants to county probation offices. The grants would fund improved services and increased supervision of 18- to 25-year old offenders. The administration has included this new grant program as part of a larger package of proposals intended to address high levels of overcrowding in the state prison system as well as county jails. The administration says the new program for 18- to 25-year olds would be modeled on the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) programs targeted at younger offenders. Like JJCPA, the new program, called the California Adult Probation Accountability and Rehabilitation Act (CAPARA), would be administered by the Correctional Standards Authority (CSA) within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
According to the administration, the funding for CAPARA would generally be provided according to the population of each county, with each county receiving at least $100,000. Local probation departments which volunteered to participate in the program would have to submit an “action plan” subject to CSA review and approval, use a validated risk assessment tool to target supervision and needs of offenders, and use services and programs, such as drug treatment, to address the needs of their probationers.
The Governor proposes $50 million from the General Fund for this local assistance program in 2007-08. Total funding would grow to $100 million in 2008-09.
We agree that there is some merit in examining whether targeting the 18- to 25-year olds for improved probation services could reduce their numbers in state prison and county jails. But, based upon our analysis, we have a number of concerns about the specific proposal presented by the administration.
Some Aspects of Proposal Vague. The administration’s proposal would provide a flexible source of funding to counties to experiment with new strategies to prevent young adults from continuing their participation in criminal activity. However, based on our review of the trailer bill language proposed for this new program, it is unclear (1) how the services provided under the program would differ from those already provided to this age group as well as older probationers, and (2) how specifically it would help to relieve prison or jail overcrowding, which is supposed to be the general purpose of the new state grant program. For example, the trailer bill language allows funding to be used for the “incapacitation” of offenders, which could include jailing them—thus working at cross purposes with the stated intent.
Program Funding Level Not Justified. The administration has provided no information to justify the specific funding level proposed for this program for 2007-08 or 2008-09. Lacking basic information, such as an assessment of the funding required by county probation agencies to provide services and supervision for this population, it is hard for the Legislature to assess whether the proposed funding is at the right level, even if it determines that the overall approach is worthwhile.
Large Investment in Untested Programs. The Legislature made a large-scale investment in JCCPA programs based on evidence that similar programs targeted at juvenile offenders had been successful in other states. There is some evidence that JCCPA has reduced criminal involvement and resulted in other positive outcomes for juveniles who have participated in them. However, the administration cannot point to any programs similar to CAPARA which have demonstrated success with the 18- to 25-year old group targeted for the new program. What worked well for JCCPA might not work as well for the older offenders targeted for participation in CAPARA.
No Detail Provided for Proposed Administrative Funding. The budget proposal places all $50 million in a CDCR local assistance item, and states that $275,000 of the funding would be set aside for CSA’s administrative costs. In order to justify these administrative resources, we believe it would be more appropriate for the administration to provide the Legislature with fiscal detail indicating the specific staffing complement and operating expenses and equipment that CSA would need to operate the new grant program. Also, we believe any administrative funding provided by the Legislature for CAPARA should be budgeted in the state operations item, not within the CDCR local assistance item.
We recommend that the Governor’s proposed new adult probation program be scaled back and part of the remaining funding shifted to another program more likely to achieve the intended goal of reducing inmate and jail populations. This approach would also result in some General Fund savings relative to the Governor’s budget plan.
Fund Only a Pilot Program. Given the concerns cited above, we recommend that the Legislature set aside no more than $5 million to test CAPARA in a limited number of counties. This funding would be awarded on a competitive basis to the best “action plans” submitted by counties that (1) documented how they would differ from the services already provided for this target group in their county, and (2) focused on specific strategies that would be likely to reduce state prison and county jail populations. Consistent with this approach, CSA and DOF would be directed to develop legislation to implement a pilot program, including the administrative and support funding and staffing such a new program would require.
Our recommendation is based on our conclusion that, while such a new program may have merit, it makes sense to invest a much more limited amount of funding to test the concept before the Legislature commits full funding for it on a statewide basis. If the pilot program proved to be successful and cost-effective in reducing prison and jail populations, as suggested by the administration, the Legislature could consider providing expanded funding in the future.
Shift Some Remaining Funding to Proposition 36. We recommend that $25 million of the funding proposed for CAPARA be redirected to the budget for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (DADP) to reverse a funding cut proposed by the administration in Proposition 36 programs. This initiative measure, approved by voters in November 2000, changed state law so that certain adult offenders who use or possess illegal drugs are sentenced to probation supervision and drug treatment rather than being sentenced to prison or jail. Under our proposal, sufficient funds would be provided in the DADP budget to maintain Proposition 36 expenditures at $145 million annually—the same level of support provided for them from the General Fund in 2006-07.
The administration does not count on its proposal resulting in any reduction in the prison population based on our review of its prison and jail capacity package. In contrast, independent academic evaluations of Proposition 36 and our own separate review of prison data since its enactment in 2000 have confirmed that the measure has held down growth in the prison and jail population, and resulted in fiscal savings beyond its costs. Last year, we estimated that General Fund savings to the state on prison and parole costs were almost $300 million in 2004-05. After accounting for the state’s contribution that year of $120 million for support of Proposition 36 program, the state achieved net savings that year of about $180 million.
Accordingly, we recommend redirecting $25 million of the new funding proposed by the administration for CAPARA into existing Proposition 36 programs. We believe this approach would likely result in some improvement in probation supervision of county offenders, given that support of probation operations is an allowable use of Proposition 36 funding. Moreover, our approach would ensure that most of the money is used for substance abuse treatment services, a strategy that independent evaluations indicate would be likely to reduce prison and jail populations.
In response to findings in the academic studies referenced above that found some weaknesses in Proposition 36, the Legislature and Governor last year enacted Chapter 63, Statutes of 2006 (SB 1137, Ducheny) to make various improvements in the initiative. One of the changes was to permit short-term incarceration of an individual who had failed to comply with the treatment plan ordered by a judge. However, the statute has not been implemented due to a pending court challenge of the measure.
If the legal challenge to Chapter 63 has not been resolved by the May Revision, the Legislature may wish to consider placing policy changes it wishes to link to the provision of Proposition 36 funding on the statewide ballot in 2008. A prior legal opinion issued by the Office of Legislative Counsel indicated that voter approval would likely be needed for some proposed changes in Proposition 36 to go into effect. (For additional discussion of Proposition 36 issues, please see our analysis of the DADP budget in the “Health and Social Services” chapter of this Analysis.)
Under our approach of using $5 million for the pilot project and $25 million for the Proposition 36 program, the state would achieve $20 million in General Fund savings relative to the Governor’s 2007-08 budget plan.
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2007-08 Budget Analysis