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A push from the right: More conservatives joining fight to change sentencing guidelines

Since the late 1970s, rising crime has led lawmakers to require prison time for many non-violent offenses.

But some say eliminating the options of fines, work release, substance-abuse treatment and house arrest in favor of prison time can turn non-violent offenders into career criminals.

Now, as states face large budget deficits, calls for reforming sentencing for non-violent offenders also are coming increasingly from conservatives who call prison costs unsustainable.

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All is not lost: State never delivered financial incentive, but probation program found some success (access required)

The Legislature tried to give probation departments a financial incentive in 2008 to keep revocations and prison populations down.

However, lawmakers never came up with the money for the incentives. And this past session, lawmakers repealed the incentives program known as the Safe Communities Act (SCA). Even in the absence of the financial part, the program was considered a success by some because of the methods probation departments developed and refined during that time.

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Santa Cruz County readies newer, bigger jail

An almost-dry riverbed, train tracks and less than two miles of roadway are all that separate Santa Cruz County's old jail from its new one in Nogales. But the county's head honcho, for whom the new $48 million law-enforcement center is named, said the difference between the facilities is stark.

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