prison.jpgA bill recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown will put some state prison inmates under the control of counties, and a San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee held a hearing today on the possible local impact that legislation could have.

The board’s public safety committee held a hearing today on the possible impacts of AB 109, which was signed into law on April 4 and will take effect on July 1.

Under the new legislation, people convicted of nonviolent, non-serious offenses, as well as adult parolees and juvenile offenders, would fall under local jurisdiction rather than the state.

“Cycling these offenders through state prisons wastes money, aggravates crowded conditions, thwarts rehabilitation, and impedes local law enforcement supervision,” Brown said in a statement after signing the bill into law.

But Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the chair of the public safety committee, said today that the move “is going to tax our already-distressed infrastructure.”

Paul Henderson, Mayor Ed Lee’s policy advisor for public safety, agreed, saying, “the system we have today is not going to work four months from now.”

Mirkarimi said the new law will likely mean the return of up to 700 inmates, roughly 40 percent of San Franciscans that were sent to state prison, over the course of the next year or so.

San Francisco’s chief probation officer Wendy Still said her department already has extremely high caseloads, and said that number would increase by about 25 percent under the new legislation.

The move is expected to save the state about $485 million, but Brown said he will not allow the legislation to be enacted until counties are ensured of funding to take on the additional inmates.

Mirkarimi said, though, that the funding “is predicated on real fragile variables,” including a proposed measure on the November ballot asking Californians for a tax extension.

He said he wanted to hold a hearing on the issue because city officials are already holding preliminary budget discussions “and there is no mention of this whatsoever.”

Mirkarimi could be dealing with the problem from another position after November’s election. He is running for San Francisco sheriff to replace Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who announced in February that he is not seeking reelection after 31 years in the position.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department oversees the county’s jail operations.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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