Shasta County Grand Jury Sounds Alarm On Prison Realignment Spending

In a pair of scathing reports, the Shasta County Grand Jury has accused the Shasta County Board of Supervisors of improperly using state funds allocated for rehabilitation programs to fund county jail operations, even as a budget deficit looms for public safety spending.

The two reports, “Community Corrections Partnership—AB 109 Funds, $45.7 Million For Public Safety—Where Has It Gone?” and “Shasta County Jail: Funding And Capacity, A Public Safety Crises Deepens,” offer unflinching criticisms of the board and the Community Corrections Partnership’s handling of AB 109 funds.

AB 109 prison realignment is the sweeping criminal justice reform passed by the Legislature in 2011. It had two primary goals: reduce the unconstitutionally overcrowded conditions in the state prison system and reduce the absurdly high rate of recidivism of state prison inmates, which exceeds 70 percent, according to some measures.

That means seven out of 10 state prison inmates are re-arrested after completing their sentence. Before AB 109, most were returned to prison, exacerbating prison overcrowding.

To reduce the prison population, AB 109 shifted—realigned—the responsibility for punishing and rehabilitating criminals classified as non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual offenders from the state prison system to county jails. To reduce recidivism, the legislation, which is funded by vehicle license fees and the state sales tax, financially encourages counties to adopt evidence-based rehabilitation programs that have been scientifically proven effective.

To help oversee this massive realignment project, the state required each county to form a Community Corrections Partnership. The CCP is comprised of the chief probation officer, the chief of police, the sheriff, the district attorney, the public defender, the presiding superior court judge, a representative from the board of supervisors, the heads of various county health and social service agencies, including education and housing; a representative from the nonprofit community and a victims’ rights representative.

It’s a fairly large crew that’s had difficulties meeting regularly. According to the grand jury, Shasta County’s CCP has been lax in its oversight of AB 109 funding since its inception.

“The Community Corrections Partnership does not routinely collect evaluative data or require program evaluations to show that current spending is effective in reducing recidivism, the intent of AB 109 legislation,” the grand jury found.

The grand jury contends that without this data, the board of supervisors cannot effectively allocate AB 109 funding. As a result, instead of focusing on expanding the county’s limited evidence-based rehabilitation programs, supervisors have been using AB 109 money to plug gaps in the general fund to cover operating expenses for the jail.

“There has been no audit to determine whether AB 109 funds are being allocated as designated by AB 109,” the grand jury report found. “Budgets and minutes of the Board of Supervisors and Community Corrections Partnership indicate that AB 109 funds have been used to replace rather than add to Shasta County general funds for public safety, indicating the need for such an audit.”

The grand jury’s report on jail capacity begins by recounting the overcrowding issues that have dogged the facility since 1993. The jail’s current capacity is 341 inmates, even though a prior-needs assessment recommended capacity be boosted to 518 inmates. The county plans to add 60 beds later this year.

In order to maintain the jail’s present limit of 341 offenders, 30 inmates who would otherwise remain incarcerated are released every day. Despite the fact that lack of jail capacity has been highly publicized for years, Shasta County still doesn’t have an official plan to do anything about it.

“The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has not developed a short or long-term plan to match Shasta County Jail capacity needs with identified operational funding sources, despite multiple assessments showing a critical jail bed shortage in Shasta County,” the report stated.

To make matters worse, because the CCP has been dipping into its AB 109 reserve fund to pay for general fund expenses, the reserve fund will soon be depleted, resulting in potential cuts to AB 109 programs.

“Based on current funding and program spending, a 25 percent reduction in AB 109 budgets will be required in FY 2020-2021 once unspent balances are depleted,” the grand jury reported. “Unless the Shasta County Board of Supervisors finds an alternate funding source, Shasta County will be unable to maintain current levels of public safety services.”

Shasta County executive officer Larry Lees admitted the CCP’s projected budget deficit is cause for concern, but denied the grand jury’s claim that AB 109 funding has been misallocated by the board of supervisors.

“We’re still scratching our heads on that one,” he said.

Contradicting the grand jury’s depiction of a county asleep at the prison realignment wheel, Lees said he and his colleagues have been working closely with members of the CCP, including attending graduations at the Probation Department’s Day Reporting Center.

“I feel very comfortable with the information we’ve been given from the DRC,” Lees said. “Even the worst result is better than what was coming out of the state pen.”

Lees granted the grand jury one point: the board of supervisors has not selected an official representative for the CCP, as required by AB 109. Lees said that’s set to change, now that supervisor Mary Rickert has volunteered for the position.

“I offered to sit on the CCP committee to better inform myself as to the finances surrounding AB109,” Rickert said via email. “I do believe that we need to address the options of providing more extensive services for rehabilitation and treatment for those incarcerated, which are consistent with some of AB109 funding objectives. If we are to mitigate crime statistics in Shasta County, we need to address substance abuse issues.”

Rickert declined to respond directly to the grand jury reports in lieu of waiting for the board’s official response. Nevertheless, the reports got her attention.

“I am very concerned about the grand jury’s predictions of an upcoming shortfall, and that is one of the reasons why I am meeting with [Shasta County auditor-controller] Brian Muir to see if he agrees with their calculations.”

Shasta County received $39 million in AB 109 funding between 2011 and 2017, 90 percent of which was spent between two departments, Probation and the Sheriff’s Office. Approximately $20 million, 52 percent, went to Probation and $12 million, 31 percent, went to the Sheriff’s Office.

The grand jury has called into question the Sheriff’s portion of the pie, most of which has been used to open and operate the second and third detention levels of the jail, fund the work release program and pay for out-of-county jail beds. In the past, all of these budget items were either paid for by the general fund or other revenue sources.

“AB 109 funds have been used to maintain the capacity of the jail as county budgets remained flat rather than increase the number of beds post-realignment,” the report said. “Capacity at the jail is no higher than it was in 2008, despite two out of three detention levels being funded by AB 109.”

The grand jury asserts AB 109 funds can’t be used to maintain jail capacity because the problem existed before AB 109 became law. This may be a questionable line of reasoning, given that legislators anticipated AB 109 would impact county jails and allocated funding to mitigate those impacts. Nevertheless, the grand jury argues this ongoing funding may be in violation of the law, or at least the spirit of it.

“The law also states that AB 109 funds shall not be used to replace existing county public safety funding,” the grand jury said.

The grand jury recommended that the board of supervisors agree on the present and future capacity needs for the Shasta County Jail by Sept. 30. It advised the supervisors to adopt a 10-year funding plan for jail capacity expansion and to identify ongoing, new sources of revenue to fund the project by next March.

More than half of the county’s AB 109 funding — $20 million since 2011 — has been spent on probation services and accounts for 45 percent of the department’s budget. Probation staff has been more than doubled, from 25 to 55. AB 109 helps fund mental health programs, alcohol/substance abuse treatment, educational services and employment outreach for the 2000 to 2200 offenders Probation supervises each month.

It also funds the Day Reporting Center, where high-risk offenders receive intensive behavioral intervention services in the department’s primary evidence-based program. It’s operated by a private contractor, GEO Reentry Services, that meticulously monitors its therapeutic interactions with offenders, tracking meeting attendance, drug test results, employment outcomes and numerous other data points. This data is then processed and periodically presented to the board of supervisors.

What have we learned during the four years the DRC has been in operation? Well, the longer offenders remain in the DRC’s three-phase program, the more successful they are at remaining sober, obtaining employment and staying out of trouble. Every six months, classes ranging in size from 6 to 18 offenders complete the program and successfully transition back to society.

The grand jury came away impressed with the DRC’s evidence-based practices, and cited the fact that the board of supervisors have thrice voted to cancel expansion of the program as evidence supervisors are not focusing on one of AB 109s primary directives, reducing recidivism through evidence-based programs.

“A key example of evidence-based programming being rejected in favor of funding for non-evidence-based programming is the possible expansion of DRC to the Burney Area or East Redding,” the grand jury reported. “Even though a number of potential participants are located in those areas, the expansion was voted down in 2013, and again in both 2017 and 2018.”

Despite recognizing the DRC’s success, the grand jury remained critical of the CCP’s performance overall.

“The grand jury notes that the CCP has allocated less than 20 percent of its funding for evidence-based programming, based on annual reports it submits to the Board of State and Community Corrections,” the report said. “These reports do not comment on recidivism data. With few exceptions, the CCP does not collect data which would allow it to conduct evaluations of the effectiveness of its funded programs.”

The grand jury recommended that the CCP begin providing quarterly reports on county-wide recidivism rates and its percentage of evidence-based programs to the board of supervisors by Sept. 30. Chief of Probation Tracie Neal may beat them to the punch.

Neal said the DRC has been working on a detailed report tracking re-arrest and re-conviction rates of its offender-clients over one, two and three years period. She’s excited about the results, but is holding them close to the vest for the time being.

“We go above and beyond for that recidivism data,” Neal said. “The data is very good.”

Neal plans to release the data at CCP’s public meeting in July. Meanwhile, the board of supervisors has less than 90 days to respond to the grand jury’s reports.

Stay tuned.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.
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40 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Thanks for the in-depth article, R.V.

  2. Avatar Time for Change says:

    And they Wonder WHY the Public Doesn’t approve of Sales Tax Increases??? Time to Clean House down there……..Vote People…..oh wait these reports were let out After the last Election…..mmmm

    • Yeah, I wasn’t too happy about the timing either. If this had come out before the primary, it’s quite possible Greene might have beaten Bosenko. The supervisor races might have been effected too.

    • Avatar Anita L Brady says:

      The sales tax increase was for the City of Redding. This funding issue is at the County level. I live in the county and would have been happy to pay the extra sales tax when I shopped in the city– though I couldn’t vote on it. Oh, well. If the residents of the city are not willing, far be it for me to try to help.

      • You’re correct Anita, the county hasn’t proposed a tax increase for public safety, as least since I’ve been here, the past four years or so. Reading between the lines, I think the grand jury was suggesting it’s time the county got off its butt and raised some new revenue.

        • Avatar Common Sense says:

          Well they just turned down Millions by saying NO to prop 64. So what is their plan to offset that LOST revenue??? Lost Jobs…..Lost State Money to clean up old abandoned Grow Sites…..State Grants/tax money….flushed it ALL down the drain!

  3. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    “The grand jury came away impressed with the DRC’s evidence-based practices, and cited the fact that the board of supervisors have thrice voted to cancel expansion of the program as evidence supervisors are not focusing on one of AB 109s primary directives, reducing recidivism through evidence-based programs.”

    I am shocked—SHOCKED!—that our local reactionary politicians are rejecting evidence-based rehabilitation programs that appear to be working in favor of programs that feel more like Biblical retribution. Who in a gazillion years woulda guessed?

    • I can’t say for sure that the county supes are choosing Biblical retribution, but it’s certainly one plausible explanation. There’s even some evidence to back their attitude up: according to state data, prisoners who do straight sentences in jail instead of split sentences with jail and an ankle bracelet have lower recidivism rates. The potential jail sentence does appear to have a deterrent effect on crime–if you have the jail space to enforce it, which we don’t. If we can match the jail sentence up with rehabilitation services after the sentence is served, we might actually improve the public safety in Shasta County.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Long jail sentences don’t work even if they work better than anything else. The reason—clearly—is that we don’t have the money to keep everyone who commits a crime in jail long enough to have jail be a deterrent. Locals don’t want to pay for that in the currency of higher taxes. The best alternative seems to (as you said) the model that seems to work reasonably well, if you believe the evidence-based feedback: Jail followed by the DRC program.

        The fact that this alternative isn’t being implemented enthusiastically appears to clearly reflect the locally prevailing notion that get-tough jail time is the ONLY option……but someone else needs to pay for it.

        • That’s correct, it doesn’t have to be a long jail sentence, but it has to be enforced. AB 109 created a new class of criminal, the non-violent, non-sexual, non-serious offender. Shasta County had a habit of sending these folks to state prison for longer sentences than other counties. Now they’re sentenced to the jail. There is actually quite a bit of data that has been collected on AB 109, researchers are still crunching the numbers. I”ll be reporting on it soon.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Is there a control group, or are we being fooled by small numbers & survivorship bias and essentially declaring “people who don’t recidivate early on (and thus stay in the program longer) go longer without recidivating?”

      Studies of Alcoholics Anonymous have been plagued by these issues for decades so forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical of our DRC’s program working as well as claimed.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        You’re probably right about the rigor of the analyses. But even if it’s true that people only stay clean so long as they’re in the DRC program, isn’t that program cheaper than incarceration? And since full-tilt long-term incarceration is fiscally untenable, isn’t keeping them in the system longer than not a far better alternative to just letting them go and hoping for the best?

        • Avatar Tim says:

          If the program actually works, great. And I’m ok experimenting with small pilot programs to try and find something better.

          But we do know traditional long term incarceration works, at least for the rest of society. The costs are only untenable under the current California regulatory structure:

          Private prisons, impossible to use in CA thanks to the corrections union’s stranglehold, charge about $50/head/day — ~$37 million a year for the 2,000 probationers in Shasta County. AB109 funds have averaged $7 million/year, so it would only cost each county resident $167/year to be able to once again leave their doors unlocked.

          Furthermore, if operating outside the constraints of the CA regulatory system, the able bodied could be put to work on chain gangs – lowering the cost of labor for major infrastructure projects like widening & repaving highways, cutting an east-west railroad from Reno to Eureka, etc. They could even selectively harvest timber from SOJ forests to lessen fire danger and provide lumber for public construction projects.

          Finally, there is the eugenics argument — how many fewer ACE children will the county produce with those 2,000 probationers behind bars during many of their peak reproductive years?

      • Tim, most of the serious research on AB 109 is being done on the state level, and depending on the study topic, they are using control groups, generally a pre AB-109 cohort vs. the post AB-109 cohert. Shasta County has actually been part of some of these studies, and I’ll be reporting on this soon.

        You raise an extremely valid point about Alcoholics Anonymous and faith-based recovery programs: Under strict interpretation of AB 109, these types of programs are not considered evidence-based. If they’re put to the test, it’s quite likely they’ll fail, because “recovery” rates are generally about 10 percent to 15 percent. Nevertheless, that’s what many of the treatment options in Shasta County consist of.

        The Day Reporting Center has several programs that employ cognitive therapy, which have been scientifically proven to reduce recidivism. They’ve been collecting an enormous amount of data, and Tracie Neal’s upcoming report should be very interesting.

  4. Avatar name says:

    “the state required each county to form a Community Corrections Partnership. The CCP is comprised of the chief probation officer, the chief of police, the sheriff, the district attorney, the public defender, the presiding superior court judge, a representative from the board of supervisors, the heads of various county health and social service agencies, including education and housing; a representative from the nonprofit community and a victims’ rights representative.”

    Whomever came up with that idea/requirement must have been on some fairly powerful medical marijuana and/or prescription painkillers. The chances of getting all of those individuals in the same room, or even on the same phone call are ZERO. Even if they were somehow able to all get in touch, there is no way they are on the same page. There will be at least a dozen diverging opinions, agendas, ideas, and accusatory incrimination. It is almost like it was set up to fail from the beginning.

    • No kidding. All of these people already have full-time jobs. The state didn’t really ask when they passed AB 109, they just said, “Here, do it!” They did dole out the cash, about $1 billion per year to the 58 counties. The grand jury definitely found that the CCP has trouble maintaining a quorum at its meetings.

  5. Avatar Melanie says:

    What I would like to see is what other counties have done with their AB109 money and if they have seen positive results because the only place I ever hear about AB109 is Shasta County.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      One thing that the majority of locals loath is the prospect of adopting ideas that work elsewhere as an alternative to clinging to beliefs about what criminals have coming to ’em.

    • AB 109 is a statewide issue and believe me, there are plenty of other counties out there complaining just like us. And here’s another thing: even though the grand jury report is highly critical of Shasta County’s management, we are actually making slow progress. I”ll be reporting on this soon.

  6. Avatar Dan says:

    RV the elephant in the room is the previous grand jury reports. Take a look at 2017 starting about page 50 and Tracy Neal’s response at the end. Eye opening.

  7. Avatar George Koen says:

    Begs questions about everything else BOS is involved in managing. Time for State and Federal investigation and governance methinks. In fact, time to forum a citizens oversight committee for BOS/COR.

    • George I think that’s pretty much how the Shasta County Grand Jury views itself, as a citizen oversight committee. Like most oversight committees in my experience, it does good work, but its findings have no teeth.

  8. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Thank you for all of this information. I have this crazy notion that some people are pleased that our current “catch and release” program has such a drastic impact on our community because it proves that AB109 was a bad idea.
    The CCP could get together after hours the same way that school Site Council members get together after school hours. Thank you again.

  9. Avatar name says:

    speaking of the County – were you ever able to determine a ballpark figure for the amount of money they spent (squandered?) on that Benno trial?

    • No. The stock answer is always, “we don’t consider how much the litigation costs”. I have long heard rumors that the RS was working on this story, which would take numerous public records requests.

  10. Avatar Anonymous Heckler says:

    The Grand Jury says the county should be funding the jail without AB 109 money. I’m sure they’d love to fully fund an adequate jail. There’s no money for it. Without that background, this talk of supplanting or whatnot is just bunk. The county can’t fund what it’s tax base won’t cover.

    • “The county can’t fund what it’s tax base won’t cover.”

      The grand jury is definitely suggesting that the county raise a public safety tax.

      • Avatar Anonymous Heckler says:

        Well then it sounds like the grand jury should be investigating the voters for lacking the wisdom to pass the past several that have been floated. 🙂

    • Avatar Common Sense says:

      Right….so ask the BOS why they turned down Millions in Prop 64 money?? Why did they turn away the hundreds of jobs that Prop 64 would have brought and the State Grants…..ASK

      All that money Could have gone to the JAIL….Imagine That!

      And why you are asking them the above….ask them what their plan is to OFFSET the lost Millions??? Saying No has a Cost to it.

      • Avatar +im says:

        Except prop 64 won’t bring millions to Shasta County…

        2017 Marijuana tax revenue per population:

        Colorado: $44.11 per person per year ($247 million, 5.6 million people)
        Oregon: $17.65 per person per year (est $7.5 million/month, 5.1 million people)
        Washington: $43.11 per person per year ($319 million, 7.4 million people)

        At the same tax rates, Shasta County would bring in $3-8 million tax revenue per year. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of that tax revenue goes to the state — not the county:

        State: 15% excise tax
        State: 2% cultivation tax
        State: 6% sales tax
        City: 1% sales tax
        County: 0.25% sales tax

        State: $2.9-7.6 million
        City: $120,000-320,000
        County: $30,000-80,000

        Meanwhile enforcement will fall primarily to the city & county. It is a loser for them unless they add even more taxes, but not many people are going to pay a 30% premium for bud when the black market is thriving with less enforcement than ever…

        • Avatar Common Sense says:

          Under Prop 64 Enforcement is handled by the Bureau
          ( https://aca5.accela.com/bcc/Welcome.aspx ).

          Prop 64 has millions in a fund set aside to pay for clean ups of old grows. There are State Grants available for those that say Yes…..where there are NO grants available by saying No.

          Also Jobs…….hundreds of jobs…..

          Your numbers don’t align with Fact. The City of Shasta Lake….which is 10X smaller than Redding took in $450k last year. By your math they got to keep pennies of that and had to give the rest to the state?

          I don’t think SLC would have done it had they only been able to make $4500.00 a year according to your math. They do make money on Licensing fees but I would have to see some facts to believe there are only pennies to be made in city and state taxes.

          • Avatar Common Sense says:

            This is how they got to keep that $450k-

            Impartial Analysis of Measure A
            If this Measure is adopted by at least a 2/3 majority of the voters, then a cannabis
            business tax will take effect in the City of Shasta Lake. This cannabis business tax
            would repeal and replace the general tax that is presently collected from medical
            marijuana dispensaries operating in the City.
            The cannabis business tax would impose up to a $26 per square foot tax on
            marijuana cultivation, up to a $25 per square foot tax on marijuana manufacturing,
            and up to a 12% gross receipt tax on other cannabis businesses located in the City
            of Shasta Lake. Proceeds raised by the tax measure would go to fund local law
            enforcement and code enforcement within the City of Shasta Lake, and would be
            used for no other purpose.
            The tax would be imposed on all commercial cannabis business, commercial
            cannabis manufacturing, and commercial cannabis cultivation within the City,
            whether related to cannabis or medical cannabis. Payment of the tax would not be
            construed by the City as authorizing the conduct or permitting the continuance of
            any illegal business within the City, nor will this measure in itself permit any
            commercial cannabis activity. Nothing in the measure would imply or authorize any
            activities connected with the distribution, possession, or sale of cannabis unless
            authorized by California law and as may be permitted by the City of Shasta Lake.
            Passage of the measure would authorize City management and staff to promulgate
            rules, regulations, and procedures to implement and administer the tax, and would
            authorize the City Council to amend, modify, change, revise, or appeal any provision
            of the measure without a vote of the people to the extent allowed by law. However,
            voter approval would still be required for any amendment that would increase the
            rate of any tax levied pursuant to this measure above the maximum rates
            established by the measure. The City Council would be permitted to impose any tax
            authorized by the measure at a lower rate and may establish exemptions, incentives,
            reductions, and interest charges for failure to pay the tax in a timely manner, as
            otherwise allowed by California law.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Shasta Lake City is charging an additional 10% sales tax (on top of the 24.25%). If they are pulling in $450,000/year, they must be selling $4.5 million worth of Marijuana.

            Weed Maps says a 1/8th runs ~$25 at the Queen of Dragons. An 1/8th is roughly 10 servings, so $4.5 million sales at $25/eighth translates into 1.8 million servings. Divide that by 365 days in a year, and you have 4,932 people able to get high daily based on those tax figures.

            That is half the population of Shasta Lake City, and obviously half of Shasta Lake is not stoned every day. Heck, 26% of Shasta Lake is under the age of 18…

            So that implies Shasta Lake is selling far more than its share of weed, which makes sense given it is the only place with dispensaries in the area and draws people from as far as Chico.

            If Shasta County started allowing marijuana sales in unincorporated areas, is it really going to bring in that much extra revenue? Or will it take revenue from Shasta Lake City? A bit of both, but more of the later, I wager…

            Cliffs: I don’t see “millions” in tax revenue from marijuana under current laws, which levy a 23% state tax on MJ. Local jurisdictions adding their own ~10% tax will find it hard to compete with the black market unless they establish revenue agents to crack down on moonshiners, er growers.