SACRAMENTO, CA - Gov. Jerry Brown vowed he'll get a constitutional amendment to make sure there's enough money for prison reform.
"The money will be available," Brown declared. "(There is more than) $5 billion to carry out the work of realignment as laid out in Assembly Bill 109. I'm going to do everything I can to enshrine this (funding) in a constitutional amendment."
Right now, counties have only been promised nine months of funding to get them through the current fiscal year.
Brown made the guarantee before nearly 500 law enforcement leaders from around the state, who had gathered at the Sacramento Convention Center to hear about programs that could help California's prison realignment.
Starting Oct. 1, thousands of low-level convicted suspects who haven't committed a serious, violent or sex crime will remain in county jails instead of being sent to state prisons.
Law enforcement officials said their crimes could include, breaking into cars, grand theft auto, passing bad checks and possessing small amounts of drugs.
Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto joined other sheriff's chorus of opposition when it was first announced. He explained they're all dealing with overcrowded jails, budget cuts and layoffs.
Prieto worried that county inmates would have to give up their jail beds to state prisoners. But, he said he could hire 12 deputies and make the inmate shift work if he gets the proper funding.
"We'll put many of these individuals (on ankle bracelets) in home custody and monitor them with deputies," Prieto explained. "Monitoring them doesn't mean (checking on them) occasionally. We're going to be visiting them at least once a week or perhaps twice a week."
The governor said he will go to the voters, if necessary, to get funding. Prieto said if he doesn't come through all bets are off.
"If you don't get the dough, you don't get to make the bread," Prieto said. "And (state prisoners) don't get the bed. It's that simple."
There are still plenty of doubters. Veteran criminal lawyer and penal law expert Kenneth Rosenfeld doubts the realignment plan will work.
"They're taking them from the state system and putting them in the local system with an underfunded, under enforced power and you're expecting better results. How is that possible? It's impossible," Rosenfeld explained.
Rosenfeld suggests for cutting recidivism.
"Education, job training, and getting people resources when they are in prison for rehabilitation," Rosenfeld said.
Visiting his family from Napa, retired worker Arnie Bunter said he's hoping the experiment will work.
"Somebody's got to start somewhere and I'm sure we'll be watching very closely so that if it isn't working we'll be sounding off, so I'm not afraid of starting it," Bunter said.
Natomas resident Rima Patel is more optimistic.
"I think it's a great idea because I think that when they go back to their own communities sometimes they're likely to better themselves, being around their family and other community members," Patel said.
Another Natomas resident named Frank, who was recently released from San Quentin Prison said the plan will not put violent offenders on the street. He believes moving the focus to the local level may help slow the revolving doors at state prisons.
"You're gonna be watched, they're gonna test you, they're gonna check you," said Frank, who did not want his last name used.
By Karen Massie, email@example.com and Dave Marquis, firstname.lastname@example.org