Panel cuts Sacramento County jail rehab funds

05/04/2012 12:00 AM

05/06/2012 11:03 AM

Sacramento County officials voted unanimously Thursday to further reduce spending on rehabilitation for inmates sentenced under a new state law.

The Community Corrections Partnership amended the Sheriff Department's budget for the fiscal year by reducing expenditures for inmate services from $500,000 to $122,000 and put the difference toward jail costs.

The shift further tilts the county's budget for handling new offenders from the state toward incarceration instead of rehabilitation.

Activists and some county officials have been critical of the spending pattern, noting that state legislators wanted a greater emphasis on rehabilitation when they passed a law seeking to reduce state prison populations.

Still, Don Meyer, the county's chief probation officer and chair of the partnership, noted that the reductions in the rehabilitation budget will not cut existing services. That's because the Sheriff's Department has not been able to get some programs started as originally planned.

While members of the county committee were apparently satisfied with the sheriff's budget, at least one county supervisor is not. Supervisor Phil Serna, the only board member to vote against the original budget, recently promised a "lively debate" about the sheriff's budget when it goes to the board for approval.

Sheriff Scott Jones' budget for handling offenders who previously would have gone to prison underwent a big revision last week. Previously, the county approved a budget that called for his department to receive $6.1 million in state funding to reopen a jail wing at its Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center.

He changed his budget when questions were raised about how that money was spent. Under his revised budget, Jones attributed jail costs to a per-day rate his department charges the federal government, and the revised budget placed jail costs for the new inmates at $14.2 million - more than twice the original budget.

In addition to the changes in rehabilitation, the new budget also anticipates moving $1.8 million marked for pretrial release and home detention programs to the jail budget. The sheriff says delays in those programs have meant that only $1 million will be spent this fiscal year.

Jones has said he knows he won't get reimbursed for the difference, but hopes to end questions about the costs of incarcerating new offenders.

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