by Robert J. Hansen
Woodland, Calif. – The Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Jeff Reisig and Jonathan Raven of the District Attorney’s Office, and Ian Evans of Health and Human Services were at the Yolo County BOS meeting on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a bill that would allow a pilot drug diversion program in Yolo and four other counties at yesterday’s meeting.
If passed by state lawmakers, Hope California or AB 1928 would establish a secure drug treatment center where criminal offenders could be convicted and treated for substance use disorders rather than serving a sentence of jail or jail according to the bill.
Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said AB 1928 is not much different from AB 1542 which Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed last October on grounds of duress. treatment.
“Apart from the 50 amendments he took, not much has changed,” Reisig said.
The DA’s office, a sponsor of AB 1928, and the Yolo County court system have used numerous programs to try to help people, but many continue to receive prison sentences, according to Reisig.
“What AB 1928 is proposing to do is create a new pathway for these people, which is treatment,” Reisig said. “Instead of being stored in prison, they are offered the option of choosing treatment in a secure facility.”
Ian Evans, of the Yolo Health and Human Services Agency, said Yolo needs better tools for everyone who experiences homelessness, not just those who suffer from addiction or mental illness.
According to Evans, there is a lack of resources for those who need support.
“At any given time, we have between 20 and 30 residential beds available,” Evans said. “Frankly, we probably need almost double that.”
Supervisor Don Saylor was the only supervisor who worried about the bill and did not support it.
“I am compelled by the universe of people who work in treatment who oppose. I think their case is very strong,” Saylor said.
Saylor believes something better can be done, as it is driven by an impulse to get people off the streets.
“Last year the bill was very limited on treatment programs, it was really a custodial facility proposal. This year it’s being worked out. But I can just imagine those hearings at the court,” Saylor said.
Saylor said juries and judges would be persuaded to convict to receive a prison sentence, which would then allow the treatment program to be offered.
“All we are asking is that you convict this person so they can access this program. They can choose the program, but first we need the conviction,” Saylor said. “It’s a very difficult hurdle for a judge and a jury. It creates an imbalance in the system that I think is unwise.
Deputy Chief District Attorney Jonathan Raven said the program will focus on people deemed unsuitable for safe treatment in the community based on their substance abuse and level of crime.
“This program would focus on that population, those who cannot be treated safely in the community and who would be sentenced to state prison or long prison terms,” Raven said. “The jail doesn’t have good services, I hope they get better but that’s not the case at the moment and when people go to jail our county loses all control over our people.
The program would be for people who wouldn’t be covered by another existing program and would avoid the horrible services for substance abuse disorders and mental illness in our prisons according to Raven.
“When they go to jail, they don’t fare any better, that’s for sure,” Raven said.
Yolo public defender Tracie Olson voiced her opposition to AB 1928 at the reunion.
She said AB 1928 is very similar to the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC), a northern California prison that had a program called the Civil Addict Program (CAP).
“It’s very similar to what AB 1928 is,” Olson said.
Those facing a prison sentence could choose CAP, which was an in-custody program that allowed them to serve a shorter sentence.
“I haven’t had any experts explain to me why it didn’t work, but what I’ve seen is customers coming in and out of this program over and over again,” said Olson. “Simply because they weren’t ready.”
Olson would like to see voluntary treatment and support rather than going back down that path.
This incentivizes jail time because the prosecutor decides which offenses to charge, which to dismiss, and whether jail should be offered according to Olson.
“What’s seen as a great treatment program is only offered with a jail sentence, that’s what we’ll get,” Olson said.
The other four supervisors supported the bill, sharing the view that it is a pilot program and does not have to be permanent and therefore worth a try.
Supervisor Angel Barajas said he had spoken with people in his district and that the choice for people to go for treatment instead of going to jail or jail was popular.
“That’s what a lot of these elected officials in the state legislature hear and I hear too,” Barajas said. “It’s an alternative, it’s a solution, it’s a pilot program. We need to take the right step forward to see if it works.
After public comment, the majority of which opposed the bill, Yolo supervisors voted 4 to 1 in support of AB 1928.