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Jan 2012
Sacramento’s new prison realignment plan is off to a terrible start

State leaders might have seen an ideal budget fix in their new law allowing felons with prison terms of six years or less to be housed in local jails and then supervised by local law enforcement agencies, but the last 48 hours have already given us two examples of just how terribly bad this idea will turn out.

Shooting suspect Steven Hoff in a May 17, 2011 mug shot.Daily News Los Angeles

Shooting suspect Steven Hoff in a May 17, 2011 mug shot. (Daily News Los Angeles)

Steven Hoff was paroled from state prison in January 2011, but the parole was suspended in July, which typically means he broke contact with his parole officer, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Parole agents had been looking for him for a parole violation when he allegedly shot and seriously wounded a parole agent on Wednesday. He was apprehended after an hours-long manhunt in Lake View Terrace that forced the closing of the 210 Freeway and lockdown of two schools.

Within hours, details of his violent past began to emerge. Among other things, according to the Times, Hoff was involved in a standoff with LAPD SWAT officers in the same general area nearly a decade ago. On Aug. 21, 2002, he barricaded himself in a Sylmar home to evade police and state parole agents searching for him in connection with a parole violation and the slaying of a motorcycle club member in Kern County.

In the coming years, the Steven Hoffs of the world won’t be supervised and tracked by parole agents. Instead, the state will have turned over the job to local law enforcement agencies. What will happen when they simply abscond to another county to get away from local supervision? Who, exactly, will go look for these dangerous individuals if there is no statewide parole agency?

Captured escapee William Scott

Captured escapee William Scott Woodin. (

And speaking of local inmate housing commitments, the first inmate sentenced to local jail in lieu of prison escaped on Wednesday. William Scott Woodin, jailed locally because of the new law, escaped from Orange County’s Theo Lacy maximum-security jail by ‘wiggling through a kitchen window.’ He may be the first inmate to escape from that jail in 20 years, but he is a precursor of problems that will only multiply in the coming years. Jails are built to house pre-trial inmates and low level offenders. They are not equipped – by facility design or in staffing levels – to house inmates for years on end. Woodin was a mostly a thief and drug addict; but what will happen when violent felons like Steven Hoff start filling our local jails on multi-year sentences?

We’ve already seen the death and destruction caused by the state’s now abandoned “low level, non-violent” release program, whose sole aim was to release unsupervised inmates into our communities. This state’s latest effort, placing inmates into county jails and leaving local authorities to supervise them, looks doomed to be just as much of a public safety failure.

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