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Democrats reject proposal to address a realignment issue

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CA Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, says he is reluctant to make any major changes to realignment while California is under a court order to reduce the prison population.

Democrats on the Assembly Public Safety Committee blocked a bill Tuesday that would have punished paroled sex offenders who fail to register with law enforcement by sending them back to state prison.

Assemblyman Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) said Assembly Bill 2 was necessary to fix a problem created when lawmakers passed realignment. The 2011 overhaul of California's criminal justice system diverts parole violators, who were formerly sent to state prison for up to a year, to the counties.

“Current law puts those who do not register as a sex offenders in city or county jails,” Morrell told the committee. “Overcrowding due to our Governor’s realignment bill often puts these offenders back on the streets within days.”

Morrell said a recent Stockton case demonstrates the need for a legislative fix to realignment. In February, sheriffs there released a parolee one day after he pled guilty to failing to register as a sex offender.  Within days the man was arrested on charges of robbery, rape and the murder of his grandmother.

The San Bernardino County Sheriffs supported Morrell's bill to send sex offenders who fail to register to state prison.

“We are not equipped in our county jail to deal with this type of offender on a long-term basis,” said spokeswoman Barbara Ferguson.

But Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who chairs the public safety committee, said he would not support the bill.

“You have identified a problem — there’s no doubt about that” he told Morrell.  “But I am going to disagree with you on your solution.”

Ammiano said counties could mitigate jail overcrowding by doing a better job of deciding who to release and who to keep locked up.

Ammiano also said he was reluctant to make any major changes to realignment while California is under a court order to reduce the prison population.  The Assemblyman predicted there could soon be tweaks to the realignment program. 

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