AB 109 leads to more felony arrests but less jail time served

Mountain calls for release of booking photos

By Patric Hedlund

Kern County’s District Attorney Lisa S. Green said in a press release January 8, 2013 that there was a 15.1% increase in felony crime filings in Kern County during 2012-1,057 additional cases in just one year. There was a 22.3% increase in felony crimes within metropolitan Bakersfield last year, compared to 2011.

The increase in Kern County criminal court cases is attributed to the impact of California Assembly Bill 109, known as "Criminal Realignment."

AB 109 went into effect on October 1, 2011, transferring custody and supervision of tens of thousands of inmates in state prison back to counties.

As a result of this decision, "thousands of criminals have been released and thousands more will never go to prison for their convictions. Local law enforcement agencies feared there would be an increase in criminal activity and [an increase in] cases as a result of the release of inmates after AB 109," Green’s office said.

The Mountain Enterprise published an OpEd from Karen Schott of Cuddy Valley in September last year, asking that Sheriff Donny Youngblood acknowledge that AB 109 is putting communities at greater risk from criminals. In her OpEd, Schott said, "At least we should know who they are." She asks that the sheriff’s office agree to release booking photos of those arrested for felony crimes in this area. Schott, part of an informal neighborhood watch network that spans Cuddy Valley and part of Lockwood Valley, said if felons are not going to serve full jail terms and are returning early to our neighborhoods, it would be helpful for neighbors to at least be able to recognize those who have been arrested for felonies locally.

The choice to release such photos or not is decided county by county. It is not a matter of state law. Sheriff Youngblood said he is reconsidering his policy that currently releases the felons but not their booking photos. A deputy called in November to say the question is still being investigated.

During October The Mountain Enterprise conducted a telephone poll of county agencies in California and discovered that a majority of the 58 counties in this state do release booking photos to the media when requested.

Among those which release booking photos are our tricounty neighbors, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. One of the reasons for Kern County’s refusal (given by the Kern County deputy who called us) is a lack of resources to handle the process of providing the photos.

In our experience, the process for releasing booking photos by Ventura County to the media goes like this:

  1. We call the Ventura County Sheriff Public Information Officer andrequest a booking photo.
  2. He or she tells us it will be emailed shortly.
  3. Within 10 minutes the booking photo arrives via email.

?Added notes by Gary Meyer

This is part of the January 11, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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