The California jail oversight agency Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) is asking for more inspectors and inspections to increase law enforcement accountability and reform prison conditions.
According to The Sacramento Bee, the BSCC requested $3.1 million dollars from the legislature to fund 14 new positions, including 8 more inspectors, which is more than double the current number on staff.
In addition to bolstering staff numbers, the board also introduced a program to the state legislature that aims to strengthen oversight with more frequent jail walk-throughs, as well as “surprise inspections,” something that reform advocates have been requesting for years. As part of the program, the board would also have the power to hold sheriffs to account if they fail to correct violations.
Kathleen Howard, the board’s executive director, said of the proposals, “We actually believe it’s very responsive to what we’ve been directed to do to strengthen the jail oversight.”
The legislature has yet to approve of the proposals, and were apparently already in talks about restructuring the board as a result of the “defund the police” movement, with officials looking to reform the entire system by redistributing tax payer dollars.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is looking forward to further discussions, but does not believe the proposals are sufficient.
“I’m not convinced that we are in the pathway yet for that comprehensive reform to make sure that we have that oversight, and that business-as-usual is not going to continue. And so I look forward to the continued discussions,” she said.
Changes to how the oversight agency operates have been on the docket for over a year after investigations found that they were powerless to enforce their own rules. Other faults levied at the board include mismanagement of funds for improving jails and rehabilitation programs, as well criticisms by the Legislative Analyst’s Office that the board lacks authority and a clear mission, and needs to diversify its leadership.
The reforms are a step in the right direction, but advocates in California were not pleased that it meant the board would receive more funding — pointing to the board’s existing ties to law enforcement.
Renee Menart, a policy analyst with the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, called the proposed changes “unnecessary” and “premature without deeper reforms,” and added that the BSCC “needs to be independent of the agencies that they oversee before the state bolsters their spending or staffing.”