Report Flags Possible Misuse of Realignment Funds by Sheriffs Departments

Some California sheriff’s departments may have improperly used prison realignment funds to cover existing costs, according to a new investigative report by McClatchy and ProPublica.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Since 2011, California has sent more than $8 billion to counties to cover the costs of the massive prison overhaul approved that year, known as “realignment,” which diverted thousands of inmates from prisons to local jails.

Though local governments routinely move money from one law enforcement purpose to another, doing so with realignment funds may violate state law. The California Constitution prohibits county officials from using those dollars to cut their own costs elsewhere. But lax spending rules and limited scrutiny from both state and county officials have allowed just that, a McClatchy and ProPublica investigation found.

Civil grand juries in Shasta and Monterey counties both found problems with spending practices and requested an audit of finances. Those audits did not take place. Contra Costa County has also been accused of misuse of funds.

Some local government officials, including Contra Costa County Administrator David Twa, contend the law gives counties far more flexibility than is being assumed when it comes to realignment expenditures. Lawmakers disagree and have called for regular audits to determine how sheriff’s offices are spending taxpayer money meant for realignment.

Adequte oversight of sheriff’s departments is a matter of ongoing concern across California. A bill that would allow county supervisors to create sheriff oversight agencies is expected to be reintroduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) next year.


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