Bakersfield Rescue Mission ends up with parolees

Bakersfield Rescue Mission ends up with parolees »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The Bakersfield Rescue Mission finds itself with some of the fallout from the recent state prison "realignment."

They've been getting parolees fitted with ankle bracelets. It turns out it's part of the Kern County Sheriff's Department new "virtual jail." They're dealing with a lot more inmates and parolees because of prison changes resulting from Assembly Bill 109.

Mission executive director Carlos Baldovinos said they noticed changes a couple months ago. He says sheriff officers would bring parolees to the mission.

"They would drop them off, check in with us, and we'd tell them -- this is only going to be short term," Baldovinos said. He said the mission had an idea they might see impacts from realignment, but says there were no formal agreements.

Under realignment, more state prisoners and parolees are being handled by county jails. It kicked in at the beginning of last October. Since then, counties have worked to deal with the changes.

Kern County Chief Deputy Kevin Zimmermann said one strategy is starting up a virtual jail, and some of those inmates have been brought to the Rescue Mission.

"We were trying to partner with the Mission in order to accommodate at least some percentage of the homeless population," Zimmermann told Eyewitness News. They need some place for parolees in the program who don't have homes.

With the program, certain parolees are fitted with the ankle bracelets and they must meet various program requirements. Zimmermann said the sheriff's department is up to about 200 inmates in the program now, they hope to eventually reach 400.

Zimmermann said Kern County has seen about 4,000 parolees since realignment started, and that's double what the state projected.

Kern County is also dealing with some 1,700 additional inmates, which the state would have previously housed. The state had estimated that would be an increase of 1,100. These are what the state calls lower-level inmates.

But at the Rescue Mission, Baldovinos says they serve homeless men with basic emergency subsistence programs. He says parolees don't fit in with that.

"You could see some tendency, how they behave in a prison environment," Baldovinos said. "We were never meant to house AB 109, and those kind of folks."

He said they only had a vague idea the mission could be affected by the new law.

"We kind of knew from the media some of these folks are going to be dropped off, so we were prepared," Baldovinos said. But, they didn't get enough information.

Zimmermann thinks they had worked something out, and the department hoped as many as six beds would be available for the parolees.

At any rate, the mission asked for a meeting this Wednesday. "We've seen, from our experience in the last three or four months it hasn't worked," Baldovinos said.

He said sheriff officers want to work with them, and the mission understands what the department is up against.

"I said we could probably help on a short term (basis), maybe with one or two people, tops," Baldovinos reports. "To see if this even works."

Zimmermann said his department will now only bring inmates in this program who have also already succeeded in a drug rehabilitation program. "They have a pretty good record," he said.

Baldovinos said there are no parolees at the Rescue Mission now. He added they never had a contract with the Sheriff's Department to take any in, and were never paid for those who did end up at the mission.

Zimmermann said the department is working hard to find "service gaps" in the new programs they're starting up, and glitches are probably par for the course.

They're looking for changes that will benefit the inmates and the community.

"Adjustments that are going to best serve not just the person in the virtual jail, but the community," Zimmermann said. "Because, ultimately we're looking to serve the community."

The Rescue Mission director takes the same view -- with caution.

"It is a problem," Baldovinos says about the prison changes. "But, I think if there's a system in place, it could turn into a bigger problem if it's not dealt with accordingly."