The California State Auditor released the findings of their audit on the Los Angeles, Fresno, and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department’s operation of their respective county jail systems. The audit found rampant issues with jail overcrowding, lack of inmate access to rehabilitative and mental health services, and a surplus of billions in unspent public safety realignment funds meant to mitigate both issues.
“What’s happening right now in these counties is not only unjust, but a disservice to our communities,” said Senator Sydney Kamlager. “It’s more than just about housing people. The sheriff’s departments have a duty to provide care and to rehabilitate those individuals who walk through their doors. That simply is not happening, while billions of dollars are being left on the table.”
The audit was requested by Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) in March of 2020 following a surge in jail deaths and a call to increase transparency of public safety realignment fund spending.
Key audit highlights include:
Fresno and Los Angeles have experienced increased jail overcrowding, and neither county has met the State’s jail capacity standards by reducing its jail population or taking other mitigating actions.
Alameda and Fresno do not share sufficient information about inmates’ mental health with jail staff, who are responsible for deciding about inmates’ housing and safety.
The counties’ jails often lack adequate outdoor and educational facilities to provide certain vocational and rehabilitative programs for inmates who serve terms longer than three years.
Significant surpluses in many realignment accounts indicate that counties could use funds more effectively to improve public safety.
The audit report also found that the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), who was tasked with providing guidance to counties on public safety realignment spending, narrowly interpreted the scope of realignment funding which led to the significant surpluses seen. Lack of guidance from BSCC also led to incomplete and inconsistent information reported to the state legislature.
“These findings show a clear need for a major increase in oversight and transparency in this process to ensure public safety,” Kamlager continued. “They also show that the Board of State and Community Corrections is not up to the task of overseeing this process, or a similar program of this magnitude and weight.”
“While dismayed by the delay and appalled by the findings, I hope the audit will give the boards of supervisors for these counties the tools they need to exact real change. Advocates have been fighting for this information for a while,” Kamlager concluded.