The Criminal Justice Realignment Act – known as AB 109 – went into effect in October 2011, shifting the supervision, housing and treatment of felony offenders from the state to the county. This created a new population of offender and a shift in how the county and the court address sentencing and re-entry into the community. To provide a uniform and consistent response to this, the Realignment and Collaborative Courts Division was created.
This unit advocates for the best solutions to protect public safety while transitioning offenders back into the community with treatment and supervision to reduce the likelihood of recidivism. We provide training on all legal aspects of AB 109 and evidence-based practices. We represent the District Attorney’s Office on the Behavioral Health Court, Central Drug Court, Reentry Court, Veteran’s Treatment Court, Homeless Court, and Veterans Stand Down. This unit also staffs the multi-disciplinary team meeting for the recently developed Vista Detention’s Center Veterans Housing Module, and provides a link between the team and the court process.
California voters passed Proposition 47 in November 2014, which enacted the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” It makes non-serious, nonviolent crimes misdemeanors instead of felonies including petty theft and drug possession, unless the defendant has prior convictions for specified violent or serious crimes. In addition, the law authorizes consideration of resentencing for anyone who is currently serving a sentence and reclassification as a misdemeanor for qualifying offenses. Our division worked collaboratively with justice partners and the IT Department to prepare for the new law. We are responsible for reviewing petitions for eligibility, resentencing eligible offenders, conducting dangerousness hearings and litigating legal issues created by the law. In 2015, we processed 22,210 petitions and resentenced 15,555 cases.
Additionally, this unit is responsible for handling all post release community supervision revocation matters and acting as the office wide liaison with the Probation Department’s Post Release Offender Unit. The PRCS revocation calendar sees approximately 40-50 offenders per week.
A Collaborative Courts Deputy District Attorney continues to staff San Diego’s Mandatory Supervision Court, which leads the state in creatively and effectively supervising, treating and stopping the revolving door of recidivist offenders who receive split sentences. There are about 650 participants in the program. The increase in the number of offenders on Mandatory Supervision has led to the addition of a second weekly court calendar. Participants are brought to court about four weeks before their release from custody to review the terms of supervision which are guided by their assessment and case plan (e.g., residential/outpatient treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, job training, mental and physical health, etc.). Upon release they will reside in a home that has been pre-approved by probation or they will live in a residence provided by a treatment program or sober living facility. Participants must submit to random drug testing, meet with mental and physical health professionals and take prescribed medication if necessary. They meet regularly with their probation officers, must successfully complete programs they’re enrolled in, and attend follow-up court dates to provide the court with information on how they are progressing in their treatment plans. If they are in violation of the terms of their mandatory supervision, then they will be arrested and placed back into custody. They will then be brought back before the court where a decision will be made on whether they should be given another chance to be supervised in the community or return to custody for the remainder of their sentence.
In July of 2013, the court was tasked with handling all parole revocations. We assigned a Deputy District Attorney to take on the new project and learn this complex area of law. This Deputy DA handles all parole revocation matters and is the liaison between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Department of Adult Parole and our office. All parole revocation hearings are conducted in the San Diego Superior Court. We represent the prosecution in the parole revocation process and promote public safety. Supervised parolees who may appear in Parole Court include felons released from state prison, high-risk sex offenders, murder, and three strikes sentence. The majority of parole revocations in court are initiated by the Parole Department; however, a revocation can be initiated by the District Attorney’s Office. By law, if we are successful in revoking a parolee’s parole, we can seek a jail term of up to 180 days along with other sanctions such as GPS monitoring, drug and alcohol programs and sex offender treatment programs.
Central Drug Court
Despite the loss of several participants due to Proposition 47, Central Drug Court has been able to maintain a client base close to the capacity of 86 clients. However, the profile of people accepted to the program has changed. Offenders with a history of mental illness and drug abuse (co-occurring disorders) are now accepted into the program. This creates a negative financial impact to the program because of the greater need for housing, treatment and support. Thirty-three participants graduated from Central Drug Court this year.
The number of participants in Reentry Court remains low, at about 35 to 40; the program is authorized to accept 86. As with Drug Court, we lost participants due to Proposition 47 and the profile of accepted clients was expanded to accept people with more serious criminal records and co-occurring disorders. There has also been an expansion to accept defendants on mandatory supervision and parole revocations. Seven participants graduated from Reentry Court this year.
Homeless Court/Stand Down
Homeless Court continues to operate efficiently and effectively one day a month at St. Vincent DePaul Village or Veterans Village of San Diego. We participated in Stand Down, an event that takes place every summer. Stand Down is an innovative program to help get local homeless veterans off the streets and back on track. The District Attorney’s Office worked with the Public Defender’s Office to resolve minor outstanding criminal matters of the attending Veterans.
Veterans Treatment Court
2015 marked the first full year of permanent operation for the San Diego County Veterans Treatment Court, which originally started as a pilot program in 2011. This cutting edge collaborative justice project is designed to assist veterans who commit crime as a result of mental illness or substance abuse stemming from military service. Treatment providers from the military community join with the Superior Court, Probation Department, defense attorneys, and District Attorney’s Office to create customized rehabilitative plans for each Veteran. The program strives to reintegrate veterans into law abiding society. Last year, the Veterans Treatment Court saw its highest level of participants since the program started. Up to 46 participants were involved in treatment at any one time. Ten veterans successfully graduated from the program, which typically lasts from 18 to 36 months. In addition, 10 veterans successfully had their cases expunged and rights restored as a result of their rehabilitative efforts and community leadership demonstrated through this collaborative court.