|Cuts might be criminal|
|Written by Mark Nichols|
What's going on in state and local government as far as outsourcing public sector jobs and trying in vein to balance the budget on the backs of cops and firefighters is nothing short of criminal. Some would say the term "criminal," might be overdoing it. But a grand jury in Sacramento, California disagrees. The Sacramento County grand jury has taken a snapshot of how budget cuts have hurt a wide range of government programs and produced a report.
"Sacramento County Under Duress: Problems and Opportunities," highlights how public safety has been decreased through cuts to county and city programs. The bulk of the report looks at law enforcement and social services, and draws a simple conclusion: "Public safety has been compromised and the safety net is in tatters."
Like other parts of the country, particularly Arizona and Texas, most of the deepest budget cuts have impacted the county's Probation Department, Child Protective Services and the county jail, the report noted. The Sacramento Bee newspaper published a list of the impact of the cuts.
The Probation Department has lost nearly 40 percent of its staff since 2008, leaving fewer people to supervise adult probationers and juvenile offenders. Only 4 percent of the county's 27,000 probationers are supervised by a probation officer, the report says. Only 20 percent of gang members and sex offenders receive attention from probation officers.
"County budget cuts have devastated the Probation Department. It cannot provide the basic services needed to protect the public," the report says. o CPS staff cutbacks have meant the agency responds to fewer cases, ignoring "borderline" cases where an obvious risk isn't present.
The grand jury, among others, has routinely taken the agency to task for failing to protect foster children. o Cuts at the main county jail "have had a severe impact," the report says, with nearly 140 positions eliminated in two years.
People charged or convicted of a felony take up much of the space, leaving little room for those charged or convicted of a misdemeanor.