Communities Worry As Calif. Realigns Prison System

California has begun transferring supervision of thousands of its prisoners and parolees to local officials. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to radically reduce its overcrowded prisons. Local officials say the new program, known as realignment, will lead to a spike in crime.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

Here's an update now to a story that we brought you last week. California has begun transferring supervision of thousands of its prisoners and parolees to local level. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to radically reduce its overcrowded prisons. Local leaders say the new program, known as Realignment, is going to lead to a spike in crime.

NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: L.A.'s Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he's worried about the public's safety. The state is sending thousands of parolees here but no extra money to deal with them.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: The idea that there is not a penny for this city or the other cities makes no sense.

KAHN: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says supervising that many parolees will take at least 150 of his officers.

CHARLIE BECK: Those 150 officers are going to come right out of the streets of Los Angeles. So 9-1-1 calls will take longer to answer, reports will take longer to write and our system will suffer.

KAHN: But the state says L.A. County was given $112 million and needs to better distribute those funds. California Prison head Matt Cate says local officials should focus on results rather than rhetoric.

MATT CATE: Elected officials are going to try to inoculate themselves from anything that could possibly go wrong in any new program.

KAHN: Cate says he knows the realignment program isn't perfect but it's better than the alternative, opening the prison doors and immediately letting out 10,000 criminals.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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