Moving to fix a “broken” AB 109 system
June 27, 2013
Since its passage by the state legislature in 2011, AB 109’s radical reshaping of California’s criminal justice landscape has presented one challenge after another for the people and institutions of Los Angeles County.
The law, triggering the controversial process known as “realignment,” transferred responsibility for post-release supervision of state inmates to California’s counties.
Thousands of former state inmates have flooded into Los Angeles County under the program. Although the crimes that landed them in state prison prior to their release were supposed to have been so-called “non-non-nons”—non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual offenses—these inmates often have an earlier record of far more serious crimes.
The fatal stabbing of a 23-year-old woman on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, allegedly committed by AB 109 inmate Dustin James Kinnear, a panhandler with a long history of criminal offenses and mental illness, is just the latest incident to spark widespread outrage.
Led by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the Board of Supervisors this week launched an intensive review of what happened from the time Kinnear was released by the state until the moment he encountered the victim, Christine Calderon of Lynwood, on Hollywood Boulevard on June 18. Supervisors also directed the county departments with the greatest AB 109 responsibilities—Probation, Mental Health, Public Health and Sheriff—“to determine whether current laws or procedures are adequate to protect against any of the possible gaps” in the AB 109 process.
“The system is broken. It needs to be fixed or it’s inevitable that there will be more Christine Calderons up and down the state of California,” Yaroslavsky said after the motion was adopted. “Common sense says that this man should never have been released as early as he was from prison, and should not have been released under AB 109 in the way he was.”
Calderon’s murder is the latest in a high-profile string of crimes allegedly committed in L.A. County by AB 109 inmates.
Inmates released by the state who went on to allegedly commit heinous crimes in Los Angeles County include Ka Pasasouk , the accused gunman in last year’s quadruple homicide in Northridge, and Tobias Dustin Summers, arrested and charged with the kidnapping of a 10-year-old Northridge girl in March.
An analysis of the first year of AB 109 releases in the county, reported on Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s website, found that more than 30% of the 11,000 inmates placed under county supervision during the year were rearrested for crimes including 16 murders, 23 attempted murders and 205 robberies, along with other less serious crimes.
Officials have emphasized that AB 109 is not an early release program, and say that the inmates would have been released from custody and into their home counties in any case, where they could have committed the same crimes regardless of whether they were being supervised by state or county authorities.
Yaroslavsky, who has long voiced concerns about the program, said that, like it or not, AB 109 inmates will continue to come under L.A. County’s supervision so it’s essential to find ways to improve the process going forward. Among other things, he said, detailed and meaningful mental health information must be provided to the county early enough so informed decisions can be made to protect public safety.
“Locally, we have to make sure that we’re doing everything we can and that people aren’t falling through the cracks when they do become our responsibility,” Yaroslavsky said. “We’ve got to know what went wrong in order for us to avoid this tragic outcome in the future.”