California Grilled on Parole Violators’ Rights

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California must ensure that county jails accommodate disabled parolees, advocates for prisoner rights told the 9th Circuit.
     Convicts who violate the terms of parole have been sent to county jails since 2011 as part of the state’s effort to decrease overpopulated prisons and lower costs.
     The new law, called the Public Safety Realignment Act, Cal. Penal Code § 3056, mandates local custody for nonviolent, nonserious, nonsex offenders, and calls for local postrelease supervision.
     Earlier this year, California tried to further shift responsibility for parolees onto the counties, but a federal judge said that the counties and state agencies have concurrent custody and control of jailed parolees.
     California Deputy Attorney General Jay Goldman told the 9th Circuit on Wednesday that its legislative amendment absolved the state from responsibility under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
     “The state does not have jurisdiction, custody or supervision over parolees while they are in county jail,” Goldman said, highlighting “crucial distinctions” between the previous law and its amended form.
     “There is no operational control by the state over the county jails,” he added. “It doesn’t decide which inmates are getting which privileges.”
     Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon seemed resistant.
     “This is the part I have trouble with,” Berzon said. “Who is putting these people in county jail? Who’s deciding they should be serving time in county jail? Who makes the decision that X individual person should have their parole revoked and therefore go to county jail?”
     Goldman replied that the California’s Board of Parole Hearings makes the current determination, but he noted that such cases will go before state courts in 10 months under the amended statute.
     “There is no law to support the notion that the adjudicator of whether someone should receive a criminal punishment is liable or responsible for the ADA or other conditions of a jail or prison they may sentence a person to,” Goldman said.
     Arguing against the state, Rosen Bien Galvan attorney Gay Grunfeld said that California’s amendment does not let it off the hook for tracking disabled inmates in county facilities.
     Judge A. Wallace Tashima asked Grunfeld to justify whether California is the correct entity to sue.
     Grunfeld answered: “We are suing the correct defendants because they continue to run their program of parole and have custody and jurisdiction over our clients in their own operations.”
     California funds the parole program, decides to revoke parole and decides to use county jails, she noted. “This is a state program, and these state defendants are running it.”
     “The state has a responsibility in running its own programs to comply with the ADA,” Grunfeld also said. “That’s what it hasn’t done here; that’s what the district court is trying to address.”
     “Here, you have a finding of fault, and you have a government agency that is violating the ADA in the way it is running that program by not providing disability information it already has to the county jails when it puts people in there, and not providing a grievance process,” she added.
     For more information on the case, Courthouse News has copies of the state’s brief to the 9th Circuit, and their opponents’ reply.

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