A bill in the state assembly would change the way many offenders carry out their jail sentences, allowing many of them to spend their entire sentence in a classroom.
It’s called AB 2127 and it seeks to alter the requirements for what are known as “work release” programs.
Those programs allow inmates to do community service and take classes in lieu of jail time.
But here’s the big change proposed by AB 2127. Currently, inmates must spend half of their time in a work release program doing manual labor such as picking up trash or removing graffiti.
This bill changes that requirement to allow inmates to opt out of manual labor and only take classes.
The Kern County Sheriff's Department is in support of the bill, arguing that classes are more important to helping keep a clean sheet in the future.
“We believe the change in the bill is going to be consistent with the tenants of realignment in that it really focuses on, you know, items that are going to be designed to reduce recidivism,” said Chief Deputy Kevin Zimmermann.
Realignment refers to the statewide change in where prisoners are sent. New laws require sending inmates accused of certain crimes to local county-run jails, when in the past, they would have been forced to go to state-run prisons.
AB 2127 has drawn sharp criticism, however, from organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
One spokesperson says the change lets could let certain inmates, including DUI offenders, get off “easy.”
“We work hard to keep the streets safe for our community and to keep these people off the streets,” said Ann McCright, a local MADD advocate.
The bill has passed through both the Assembly and Senate, but each house passed a slightly different version. The bill now heads back to the Assembly where members will vote on the version passed by the Senate.
Assemblymember Shannon Grove (R – Bakersfield) voted “no” on the bill the first time, and says she plans to do so again.
“The bottom line is if you’re going to have community service as some sort of payback to the community, you should have, you know, painting over graffiti,” said Grove. “You know, do some kind of inconvenient work, not sitting in an air-conditioned classroom taking parenting classes.”