Voices from the Field: California Victims’ Rights in A Post-Realignment World
7 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2013
Date Written: April 1, 2013
On October 2, 2011, Assembly Bill 109, the 2011 Public Safety Realignment, went into effect and comprehensively changed the way California manages its criminal justice system. AB 109 shifted the primary responsibility for managing non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent offenses to the counties, meaning that thousands of offenders are now serving their time in county jail rather than state prison. Nearly every county and state level criminal justice agency was involved in the design and implementation of Realignment, in order to ensure that every need was met. Victims, however, were not at the table.
This article attempts to bring victim service providers back into the conversation surrounding Realignment. We conducted interviews with victim service providers on the ground to find out how Realignment has affected their jobs, and we got two resounding answers. First, Realignment has muddled the collection of restitution. It’s unclear who is responsible for collecting the money when, and many jails do not have the infrastructure required to collect from individuals it has incarcerated. Second, the victim notification required under Marsy’s Law is not being provided, again because of confusion about responsibilities and a lack of the necessary infrastructure.
We present a series of suggestions put forth by our interviewees to bring Realignment into compliance with the requirements of Marsy’s Law. In the end, these suggestions boil down to two basic recommendations: 1) victim service providers should be granted a voting seat on the Community Corrections Partnership in every county, and 2) the legislature needs to clarify which county actor is responsible for the implementation of which victim services in a post-Realignment world.
Keywords: California, victims, Realignment, corrections, prison, jail
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