Capitol Alert

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By Brad Branan

Since state lawmakers approved a law in 2011 making counties responsible for lower-level offenders, supporters and critics have offered many opinions as to whether or not the law is working.

Gov. Jerry Brown, for instance, recently reported that it is.

However, the difficulty in measuring the effectiveness of AB 109 was underscored Monday afternoon during a panel discussion held by the Public Policy Institute of California. The law was passed amid state budget problems in response to a federal court order requiring the state to reduce prison population.

The state must do a better job measuring how effectively counties are carrying out the law, according to the panel's speakers: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, and Matthew Cate, head of the California State Association of Counties, and previously secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"We have a lot of programs out there. Nobody seems to be able to tell me do they work," said Melendez. "There has been no analysis."

Steinberg agreed that there has been a lack of data available about what is often called prison realignment, and said he would push for greater reporting requirements and more funding for mental health and drug treatment and other rehabilitation.

PHOTO: Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua


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