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Monday, Feb 11 2013 11:00 PM

Give counties realignment dollars they have coming

By The Bakersfield Californian

Is Kern County getting shortchanged on special funding intended to help local jails deal with the increased inmate populations that have resulted from California's prison realignment plan?

By any fair-minded analysis of the numbers it is. And Assemblyman Rudy Salas, among other Central Valley-based members of the Assembly, is right to ask for additional funds to help deal with the problem.

The state plan has lowered state prison populations by moving lower-level offenders to county jails and county supervision. The move includes money to help counties deal with their increased jail populations. But some counties, including Kern, are taking in more prisoners than they were told they would have to -- but not getting commensurate funding, the aggrieved Assembly members contend in a letter to the state Department of Finance.

How extensive is the overload? Kern County was supposed to receive 1,040 offenders from the state system but has taken in more than 1,700 -- and the Probation Department's caseload is double what it was intended to be, Salas contends.

The request by Salas for additional funds to support the overload is not merely reasonable it's overdue. If Kern is going to take nearly double the prisoner load forecast, the state needs to pony up accordingly.

Gov. Jerry Brown paints a rosy picture of California's near-term outlook, a scenario we have no reason to doubt, based on a host of indicators. But government accountants ought not be celebrating the state budget's jump back into black if they do so, if part, by unfairly foisting expenses that should be borne by Sacramento onto the shoulders of counties.

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