Southern California breaking news and trends

Victor McClinton murder generates realignment controversy

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Victor McClinton's best friend, Danny Bakewell, 46, offers a hug and comforts mourning parents and young adults who knew McClinton or participated in the youth sports league he organized. Hundreds of people have attended vigils and services for the Pasadena man killed in a drive-by shooting on Christmas Day.

On December 25, 2012 in Pasadena, Victor McClinton, a respected youth intervention worker and a longtime L.A. Sheriff's Department employee, died in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. 

His death - and the way it happened - struck Pasadena hard. McClinton, a Watts native, was  known for taking great care of the kids he coached at The Brotherhood Community Youth Sports League. On Saturday about 500 mourners including L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca turned out for his funeral. 

Prosecutors have charged 20-year-old Larry Darnell Bishop, who police say is a known gang member, with murder and attempted murder in the case. With Bishop's arrest,  McClinton's death became one of several local crimes that have generated questions about the state's prison realignment program.

In an article over the weekend in the Pasadena Star-News, Caroline Aguirre - a retired parole agent who's criticized prison realignment - pointed out that the man police say killed McClinton had three prior felony convictions including one for a July 2011 assault. If AB 109, the state's prison realignment law, were not in effect, she says, Bishop may have been in prison, or at least under the supervision of state parole agents. Either situation, she contends, could potentially have prevented the alleged murder.  

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Police chiefs want a piece of prison realignment funding

Prison Realignment

Bear Guerra/KPCC

North Hollywood Police Department's Probation Compliance Unit is currently monitoring about 110 former prisoners throughout the district. On August 21, 2012, the Unit traveled as a team of five - one sergeant, and three police officers, and another officer from the LA County Dept. of Probation.

Police chiefs in L.A. County say they bear much of the brunt of prison realignment without reaping any of the resources.

Almost $400 million has flowed into L.A. County in two years under AB 109. That law shifted responsibility for lower level offenders and parolees to the counties. None of it, at least in L.A. County, has gone to city police departments.

"That is your infantry that's keeping the cities safe, every day, 24 hours" said El Monte Mayor Juventino Gomez, who's also president of the Independent Cities Association. "But an infantry will never win without the right equipment, without the right funding." 

State Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said the whole point of realignment was to give money to the counties and let them sort out how to best use it based on local needs. 

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Report: LA among counties sending more to prison

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Inmates at Chino State Prison, which houses 5500 inmates, crowd around double and triple bunk beds in a gymnasium that was modified to house 213 prisoners on December 10, 2010 in Chino, California.

A new report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) echoes widespread concerns California may not be on track to reduce its prison population quickly enough to comply with a federal court order.

Last week, a federal court told the state it needs to come up with more ways of reducing overcrowding.

"I think they never intended to get to the court-ordered reduction," Don Specter, of the Prison Law Office, told the L.A. Times.

Realignment, many said, has run its course and simply cannot get California to its end goals. 

The CJCJ report, however, points to a different culprit, broaching the idea that county prosecutors may be behind the slowdown rather than the state.

Realignment, implemented in the fall of 2011, is the state's primary strategy for drastically reducing the number of people in prison. Realignment reassigned responsibility for offenders who commit lower level, non-violent and non-sexual crimes to the county. It also shifted responsibility for many parolees coming out of prison to the county, meaning most parole violations are no longer punishable with prison time.

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New state agency to look at prison realignment

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Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca (R) is among those appointed to the new board.

A new state agency will monitor prison realignment, the most dramatic change in criminal justice in recent California history. As of this month, the Board of State and Community Corrections will monitor what's happening in California's 58 counties as thousands of state prisoners return and are placed on community supervision instead of state parole. Prison realingment also diverts those convicted of non-violent and non-serious felonies to county jail instead of state prison.

Realignment is designed to drastically reduce the population in California's prisons, which are under court orders to reduce overcrowding. So far, the policy has put the state on track: the system has over 30,000 fewer prisoners than it did in January 2010, when a federal court first ordered the population reduced.

Realignment, which has been underway for less than a year, has been controversial. Many counties have complained of jail overcrowding and insufficient resources to properly supervise returning inmates. 

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California 'ahead of schedule' at reducing prison population, says corrections chief

California State Prisons Face Overcrowding Issues

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Inmates at the Mule Creek State Prison sit near their bunk beds in a gymnasium that was modified to house prisoners in Ione, California, 2007.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says they're ahead of schedule in reducing the state's prison population. By this time, a federal court said they needed to be at 124,000 inmates to be on their way to making prisons comply with constitutional standards. Instead, CDCR announced Wednesday, they're currently at 121,129, well under the court's requirement.

California's prison population peaked at 170,794 in 2006 and dwindled for a few years after. Since the Supreme Court upheld an order to reduce overcrowding in 2011, the state has taken hefty steps to quickly empty the prisons. The most effective (and controversial) of those steps has been prison realignment, which eliminated prison as a punishment option for low-leverl offenders who commit mostly drug and property crimes.

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