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Catch and Release: Realignment Revisited; Part One

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HUMBOLDT COUNTY- Three years after Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 109, the state's prison realignment, law enforcement officials said the reform has had a lasting impact on communities up and down the state.

The controversial legislation restructured the state's prison system after the Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding was a threat to inmates rights against cruel and unusual punishment.  The state responded by restructuring the system, sending lower level inmates to local county jails for the remainder of their sentence.

"There sentenced here, they stay here, they're released here," said Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey.

Downey said realignment has many affects locally including a higher inmate population at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility and increased rates of minor and petty crimes.

Downey said serious crimes have not been on the rise, but crimes such as property crime and theft have gone up. "No such things as homicides and violent assaults," he said.

The increase to crime rates is not totally due to realignment said Downey. He blames other factors connected to the rise, such as drug use and a larger homeless population. "I don't think it's a sudden influx in crime based solely on AB 109," he said.

Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman disagrees, and said realignment has changed small communities. "We all want to live in a place where we feel save, we feel secure," said Chapman. "That's been a big change."

Chapman said his officers have responded to more reports of theft and vandalism, mostly property crime. He said it is because more criminals are on the streets. "There's more offenders in our community without more supervision or better supervision."

However, Chapman said the state chose the most logical way to restructure the state's inmate population. He said local law enforcement agencies are the best to deal with local criminals. "It's just going to be painful getting there."