Under the heading “be careful what you wish for” comes the unintended consequences of prison realignment. This is where the governor, in order to comply with a federal mandate to reduce the state prison population, signed state legislation whereby low-level state inmates would be transferred to local county jails.
Unfortunately, this transfer to county jails was not without controversy. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that those transferred prisoners must receive the “reasonable accommodations” specified in the Americans with Disabilities Act. What this actually means is the state prisoners housed in local jails must receive the same level of care and privileges that they would receive in a state prison.
According to Sheriff Wilson, this could mean an array of new medical and dental services could be mandated in the near future. But wait, there’s more. In order to be in compliance with the law, the sheriff would have to implement services that would go toward mental illness programs for inmates and deputies. If facilities to serve the inmates are not available locally, Sheriff Wilson could be forced to transport prisoners from the jail to wherever those facilities were available. Those transportation costs would require more deputies and drive costs to unaffordable levels. In addition, Wilson said, “I believe that this is just the start of a trend going forward that promotes increasing services for inmates which will put a further strain on our budget.”
Many people would consider that because the ruling came from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most overturned court in the nation, this decision would be overturned, too. However, that’s not going to happen because the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. That means the decision will stand as is.
Gov. Brown has asked for $500 million in new bond money to make improvements to the jails affected by the Ninth Circuit Court ruling. If he fails to get it, and refuses to pay for the jails to be in compliance, it’s possible that counties, including ours, could be fined or worse by the federal government.
It’s ironic that Gov. Brown, in order to comply with a federal order to decrease the number of inmates in state prisons, utilized a solution that, in itself, will cause him to be in violation of another federal order to make all institutions compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This the true definition of a Catch-22 situation or being between a rock and a hard place.
Under the category of “One size fits all,” Sacramento is at it again with a proposed solution to the state’s water problems. If you have read the newspapers, you would be aware that certain areas of California are experiencing a drought problem. If you live in the metropolitan areas of Crescent City, you are probably asking yourself, “What drought problem?”
Because California is a “one size fits all” state, meaning what’s good for Sacramento and Los Angeles must be good for Del Norte County, the governor has declared a state of emergency and wants communities to cut their water usage by 20 percent compared to usage in the preceding three years.
Crescent City has easily met and surpassed state requirements set two years ago to reduce water use by 20 percent by 2020.
But new statewide regulations approved this week will allow the state Water Resources Control Board to impose fines of $500 per day to encourage compliance statewide with emergency water savings regulations.
Under the statewide regulations, residents and businesses of the greater Crescent City area could be fined for watering landscaping in a way that causes visible runoff onto streets or sidewalks, washing vehicles with a hose that does not have a shutoff nozzle, cleaning sidewalks or driveways with water and using potable water in ornamental fountains that do not have recirculation pumps.
I wonder if Crescent City will be forced to hire another police officer whose sole duty will be to enforce this new state mandate? I assume this person will have the title of Water Enforcement Technician, (WET) for short. This person may have to make some tough choices. “Let’s see, do I go after that burglary in progress or do I write this guy a citation for a water violation?”
Yep, that’s a tough call.
Bob Berkowitz is a Crescent City resident and president of LifeStyles Research Company.