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Editorial

Get ready, California counties, here come the inmates

Where hopeful reformers see a new smart-on-crime paradigm, L.A. County supervisors sense an all-too-familiar inadequately funded offloading of state problems onto the counties.

August 30, 2011

This is not even realignment. Not really. True realignment requires more than the state merely unburdening itself and handing off responsibility to counties. It requires counties to win back their power over tax money collected locally, without first sending it to Sacramento for the state to get its cut. It requires a re-linking of decisions made here at the ballot box in local elections with spending decisions made at the county Hall of Administration.

But this is government, and this is California. There is no pulling over to the side of the road to wait until conditions are perfect. Supervisors on Tuesday are scheduled to adopt an AB 109 implementation plan to cover how the county will track, manage and re-integrate the returning population of prisoners. Is the plan adequate? Of course not. There's no way it could be.

Still, it will have to do, subject to mid-course corrections. "They're going to be coming fast and furious," Supervisor Gloria Molina said recently of returning offenders. "We need to be ready." That's true for the supervisors, for the Probation Department, the sheriff, reform advocates and county contractors who will do much of the work of trying to re-integrate offenders into the community. It's equally true for all county residents, who must come to terms with the failure of tough-on-crime policies, and both the promise and pitfalls of the new order.

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