Baca's plan to monitor ex-prisoners faces skeptical supervisors

LA County Sheriff Lee Baca. File photo.
LA County Sheriff Lee Baca. File photo.
Brian Watt/KPCC

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca faced stiff resistance from the board of supervisors Tuesday to his plan to supervise ex-offenders returning home from state prison.

The sheriff wants his deputies – rather than probation officers – to monitor felons released under the state’s realignment plan.

“Give me the rationale as to why I would need a fully trained deputy to carry out the responsibilities of basically managing a parolee," Supervisor Gloria Molina said to Baca.

Baca, who stands to receive millions of dollars in state realignment funding for monitoring felons, said deputies would be able to arrest parolees who commit new crimes.

“Its pipe dreaming to think everybody is going to be saved in this world of crime. It is not going to happen," the sheriff said.

Molina was unconvinced.

“I think that this is too heavy in sworn personnel and it’s not cost effective," she said.

The state plans to return about 10,000 non-serious felons to L.A. county supervision over the next three years. Until now, state parole agents supervised these felons. Most counties plan to assign their probation departments to assume that function.

L.A. County Chief Probation Officer Donald Blevins said it makes more sense for his department to take responsibility for the felons, because that's what probation officers do. He presented a plan to do just that.

"We have a plan that's balanced between mental health services, including substance abuse and recovery services."

The sheriff promised his deputies would also provide mental health, job training and education services.

American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Peter Eliasberg said that's a bad idea. “Law enforcement that does suppression and runs jails has a very different mission and very different training than probation officers," he said. "Research shows that a surveillance-based, law enforcement based approach to probation supervision fails.”

The Reverend William Smart of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in L.A. echoed that concern.

“We know the sheriff’s department is a law enforcement agency that does a great job," he said. "But we don’t want them involved in rehabilitation.”