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Friday, September 30, 2011

Hundreds of Ex-Cons Headed to San Francisco

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 11:20 AM

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An estimated 700 ex-convicts who would ordinarily be handled by state parole authorities will be transferred to San Francisco for monitoring beginning tomorrow, and some are raising questions about whether the city is ready to deal with the influx of newly released prisoners.

The process, known by the bland term "realignment," is a result of budget cuts at the state level that were finalized in June. Under that deal, California's 58 counties will take over the management of many parolees, supervising them and incarcerating them in local jails should they re-offend.

The counties are only supposed to assume responsibility for past perpetrators of low-level crimes. (Sex offenders and violent criminals aren't among those headed here.) However, the sheer number of former inmates headed to San Francisco, along with the possibility that some of them will re-offend, have prompted concerns.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, chairman of the Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee and a candidate for sheriff, issued a press release last night highlighting the potential strain on city resources. The release noted that the 700 parolees coming to the city have an average seven prior convictions each, raising the possibility that they could commit new crimes and end up as a burden on San Francisco's jails.

"Tomorrow's showtime," Mirkarimi tells SF Weekly. "It's an unprecedented event for criminal justice and public safety in the state of California.... It is going to be a significant test for San Francisco."

Mirkarimi said the incoming "tsunami" of parolees points to the need for the San Francisco Sheriff's Department and Adult Probation Department to more aggressively seek outside funding for programs that curb recidivism, an approach that he said has been pioneered by current Sheriff Michael Hennessey.

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Peter Jamison

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