April 2014 Newsletter
If you have a state-related issue or problem, you can speak to me one-on-one over a cup of coffee on April 25, Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Le Boulanger, 1351 Lincoln Ave., in San Jose's Willow Glen district. The meetings are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
California's prisons holds fewer inmates than it did three years ago but the system is still adjusting to the changes implemented by Assembly Bill 109 which transitioned non-violent and non-serious offenders to county jails and probation systems. This realignment stemmed from a 2001 lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners over issues related to overcrowded conditions in the state's prison system.
Much of this overcrowding is due to the high rate of returning parolees, a prime force that has fueled the expansion of the prison system's growing budget over the past decade. About two-thirds of parolees return to prison within three years.
I believe that we can lower the number of reoffending parolees by incorporating community-based services that focus on mental health and substance abuse who were largely left untreated while they were inside the prisons.
A report by UC-Irvine researchers tells us that mental illness is widespread among inmates who gain their release.
- Nearly 30 percent of women parolees have an identified mental disorder.
- Nearly 20 percent of male parolees have an identified mental disorder.
- Parolees with disorders had a 3.2 times greater chance of returning to prison than parolees who had no diagnoses of mental illness.
I believe the report also raises another important issue: the availability of mental health services and its role in the incarceration of thousands of offenders.
This is why I've made it a priority to strengthen the compliance of state mental health and addiction parity laws to ensure health insurers.
To learn more and to find out how you can support my efforts to include mental health and addiction parity in this year's budget, please click here.
NEW DMV OFFICE
This month, the Department of Motor Vehicles disclosed it plans to open a new office on Senter Road to help cope with a project influx of driver's license applications generated by the passage of Assembly Bill 60. The bill allows an estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants statewide to become eligible to obtain driver's licenses.
The DMV was authorized to open four temporary DMV field offices across the state, including one earmarked for Santa Clara County, to meet a projected increase in applications for licenses. Earlier this year, I urged Governor Brown to choose a location within or close to East San Jose, where many undocumented immigrants make their homes.
The new law acknowledges a reality: that the absence of owning a driver's does not stop an undocumented immigrant from getting behind the wheel.
AB 60 increases safety by requiring undocumented immigrants who are now driving to get a license, pass the DMV's rules-of-the-road examination and driving test, register their vehicle, and get auto insurance.
I plan to soon hold a public forum with the Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network and the DMV to prepare first-time applicants on what must be done to obtain a license and help service providers on how they can acquaint applicants with the regulatory process that governs the granting of a license.
California has the dubious distinction of ranking third out of the 50 states in the rate of identity theft-related complaints per 100,000 residents.
Reports of identity theft may climb higher following the disclosure that a widely used encryption system used by online shopping sites was defective and allowed hackers to view consumer's confidential information.
The California Attorney General's office maintains a website of state-based resources for victims of fraud and identity theft. The office cites that 5.5 percent of U.S. adults, including over 1.6 million Californians, were victims of identity theft in 2013.
The Federal Trade Commission Further has also posted several resources including Signs of Identity Theft (en español); Immediate Steps to Repair Identity Theft; and How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure.