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AB 109 Realignment Strains County Medical Resources

Published: August 01, 2014

Upon first glance, the effects of California's AB 109 safety realignment program appeared fairly non-disruptive to public officials and taxpayers. However, moving a large number of inmates from state prisons to county jails has taken its toll on the budgets and infrastructures of local governments up and down the coast. A shortage of medical supplies and psychiatric care resources is the most recent dilemma encountered by these institutions. To face these complex demands, I urge leaders throughout the state to seek definitive IT consulting and put an end to persisting crises.

Unseen Costs of Realignment Crop Up

The nature of inmate care is unpredictable and costly, especially in the context of overcrowded correctional facilities experiencing a chronic lack of funding. According to Marin News, the Marin County Jail currently spends an average of $15,000 per inmate every year. Even other Bay Area facilities that pay around $8,000 to meet prisoner health care needs are under constant pressure to reform its practices and drive down these sky-high costs. With difficult conditions such as mental illness and involuntarily medicated inmates to contend with, these institutions need a fast and effective solution.

"{The} Marin County Department of Health and Human Services has requested an expansion in hours of service to meet the mental health needs of inmates. This is in addition to the 50 percent increase in hours provided at the jail in the last year or so," stated a recent report from the Marin County Civil Grand Jury, according to the news source. "The transition from public employees to contractors has been made successfully in 30 jails around California, and it can be done in Marin as well."

Making the Most of Budgets with IT

Although proper prisoner care is the most pressing concern for California's public decision-makers at the moment, I believe that leaders should take a step back to examine how funding can be allocated more efficiently. Budget cuts are a reality that every county must contend with, the most recent example being San Bernardino, which had its funding stunted by more than $162 million just this past week.

However, if local governments can hone in on IT solutions such as offender tracking software and other operational streamliners, greater personnel and resource visibility has the potential to bring a brighter future to the state of California.

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