LAO 2004-05 Budget Analysis: General Government

Analysis of the 2004-05 Budget Bill

Legislative Analyst's Office
February 2004

Valdivia Remedial Plan For Parole Revocation

In compliance with a federal judge's order in the case of Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger (previously Valdivia v. Davis), the state recently submitted a plan to reform the parole revocation process. The court found that the current system unfairly denied parole violators their rights to a probable cause hearing and a speedy trial. We believe that the implementation of this plan will generate significant costs for the state and possibly for local governments, as well. We recommend that the California Department of Corrections and the Board of Prison Terms report to the Legislature on the full fiscal impacts of this plan.


Current Parole Revocation Process. The current parole revocation process begins when a parole agent or local law enforcement agency detains a parolee for a suspected violation of the law or conditions of parole. If the parole agent and his or her supervisor feel that parole should be revoked, the parolee is taken into custody and the case is referred to the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) for review. After an initial administrative review of the case, the BPT presents the parolee with a "screening offer" which is a proposal for a specific term of incarceration in exchange for the immediate conclusion of the case. If the parolee accepts the screening offer, he begins the sentence immediately. If the parolee rejects the offer, he must continue to wait in jail or at the state reception center where he is being confined until a revocation hearing can be held.

At the revocation hearing, a BPT deputy commissioner reviews the parolee's case and hears testimony from the parole agent, parolee, and witnesses. Based on the information provided at the hearing, the deputy commissioner decides whether there is sufficient evidence to revoke the parolee and, if so, what sentence would be most appropriate.

Parole agents referred approximately 90,000 revocation cases to BPT last year, and BPT held about 40,000 revocation hearings. The BPT spent over $14 million to administer the revocation process last year. This total does not include the costs to the California Department of Corrections (CDC) for parole agents' role in revocation or the costs to incarcerate revoked parolees.

Federal Court Requires Reforms. In 1994, a class action lawsuit was brought against the state, on behalf of parolees, alleging that the parole revocation process violates their rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that parolees had no opportunity to challenge the contents of the case against them, present their own evidence, or question witnesses prior to the revocation hearing. Plaintiffs also claimed that the length of time it takes to conduct the revocation process—over a month and sometimes longer than three months—was excessive. In June 2002, a federal district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the state to work with plaintiff's counsel to develop a remedial plan to rectify the identified problems.

Implementation Plan

In December 2003, the parties in the case jointly submitted to the court their plan which includes several significant reforms to the revocation system. These reforms are designed to ensure a timely and fair revocation process for parolees. The most significant of the reforms are as follows.

Impact of Valdivia Plan on State and Local Governments

Neither CDC nor BPT have been able to provide a fiscal estimate of the impact of the Valdivia implementation plan on state and local governments. However, both agencies have suggested that an estimate will be produced as part of the May Revision. We believe that there are at least four significant fiscal impacts that will occur as a result of the Valdivia plan.

Analyst's Recommendation

At the time this analysis was prepared, the agencies were unable to identify the fiscal impact of the Valdivia settlement, and no expenditures are proposed in the Governor's budget for the implementation of the remedial plan. Administration officials state that an implementation proposal will be part of the May Revision. However, we are concerned that submission of the proposal at that time will provide limited opportunity for review by the Legislature. For this reason, we recommend that BPT and CDC report to the Legislature at budget hearings on the fiscal impact of the Valdivia remedial plan. In particular, the departments should provide their estimates of the number of probable cause and revocation hearings that will occur, the staffing required to implement the plan, the amount of any offsetting savings, the projected impact on local governments, and any other expected costs.

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