CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, July 1, 2013

Editorial favoring "split sentencing"

From the Los Angeles Times:

AB 109, the criminal justice realignment laws adopted in 2011 that gave counties new responsibilities over low-level felons, also proposed a reinvention of the reentry process to deal with criminal recidivism. Defendants could receive what is known as a "split sentence," with a portion of the time to be served in jail and another portion to be served in the community, under supervision by probation officers who would monitor mandatory participation in rehabilitation and other programs. The period served under supervision in the community, after release from jail, is known as a "tail."

. . . .

The reasons for the failure to use this proven tool are unimpressive. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are used to bargaining over custody time, not negotiating for tails. Defendants would rather do their time and return to the streets at full liberty. Prosecutors would rather maximize custody time than require post-custody programming. Judges defer to the lawyers' plea bargains when sentencing. The focus is shortsighted, aimed at efficient processing, not structured reentry or breaking the cycle of recidivism. The leader of a committee made up of local law enforcement officers, judges and county service providers told the Board of Supervisors last week that he expects no change in the number of split sentences here.

Lawmakers this year considered a bill that would have required courts to include at least a six-month tail on AB 109 sentences, helping sluggish counties to begin solving the recidivism problem even when they don't want to. Under heavy lobbying from prosecutors, the measure died in committee.

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