Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California lawmakers push to reduce mentally ill prison population

Many Californians with serious mental illnesses end up incarcerated instead of in treatment.
Many Californians with serious mental illnesses end up incarcerated instead of in treatment. Los Angeles Times

Lacking access to treatment options, Californians with serious mental illnesses often end up jailed instead.

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, and former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg are pushing to reduce the number of mentally ill inmates by beefing up local alternative custody programs focused on mental health treatment. They will be on the north steps of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. calling on the Senate budget committee to reallocate about $14 million to competitive grants for crime reduction efforts targeting mentally ill offenders.

Steinberg has been busy advocating for mental health causes since leaving office last year. He returned to the Capitol last month to promote a mental health legislative agenda, which includes Hertzberg’s SB 621, a measure that would expand the types of programs eligible for the crime reduction grants.

LIFE AIN’T FAIR: Proposition 13 remains a mostly untouchable issue at the Capitol, but California voters seem increasingly open to tinkering with the tax-limiting measure to make it harder for commercial properties to avoid reassessments. Supporters say such a change could generate billions of dollars annually for government programs. A coalition of community, religious and labor groups calling itself Make It Fair is the latest to push for an overhaul of the commercial property tax system. They will launch their campaign, 10:30 a.m. at Sutter Middle School on I Street.

JAILHOUSE ROCK: With California working to reduce its prison population and voters swinging away from previous tough-on-crime policies, the state has been expanding its use of alternatives to incarceration, including home detention, electronic monitoring and work release. Researchers from the Public Policy Institute of California will present a new report on the potential effects of this shift in penalties, followed by a panel of state and local law enforcement officials, noon at the Capitol Event Center on 11th Street.

THIS WOMAN’S WORK: The California Breastfeeding Coalition and Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, present the Mother-Baby Friendly Workplace Awards to recognize California businesses supportive of their breastfeeding employees, noon on the west steps of the Capitol.

WHERE IS MY MIND?: How is an increasingly digital world affecting our moods, stress levels and behavior? Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at UC Irvine, will share her research on the effects of multitasking in the digital age, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

COMING TO AMERICA: As the number of undocumented college students grows, California is expanding its services to help them confront unique financial and academic challenges, including launching a state loan program and opening campus centers. These issues, and potential policy solutions, will be up for discussion at a two-day national summit in Oakland hosted by the University of California, in conjunction with the President’s Advisory Council on Undocumented Students.

SOAK UP THE SUN: A 2011 law required that a quarter of all state cap-and-trade funds be spent in low-income communities, which are often disproportionately affected by pollution and other environmental problems. State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will show off how the program is progressing with a visit to a rooftop solar panel installation in Fresno this afternoon.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.