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Sheriff Baca asks for county probation duties for department

July 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Who will supervise parolees in Los Angeles County now that the state is handing over that responsibility to local governments? The sheriff wants his deputies to take the job, not county probation agents.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca came to the County Board of Supervisors to ask them for unprecedented power. He wants his deputies to supervise thousands of parolees in the county. He would be the only sheriff in the state to do that if it's approved.

The boardroom was full of probation agents who think it's a bad idea.

A court order will force the early release of some 30,000 state prison inmates. A decision by Governor Jerry Brown will shift the parolee responsibility to local governments to save the state money.

Baca thinks his deputies can do a better job rehabilitating the inmates than the county can. But he doesn't know how much it will cost or where it will take place.

County probation officers say they have a plan that won't duplicate current efforts or cost more money.

"Our plan is to change offender behavior so they do not reoffend and that to me adds a strong measure of public safety," said Donald Blevins, chief probation officer for the county probation department.

Baca showed a map of Los Angeles County, with the highest number of parolees in the state, and a 70-percent recidivism rate, the rate of recommitting crimes.

And some of the supervisors don't think the sheriff made a very good case for taking over parolees.

"We can't make a decision here. With these two proposals, yours is far from me the most difficult to understand financially," said L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

So far there are more questions than answers as to who is going to run parole and probation in Los Angeles County. A decision has to be made by August 1.

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