In a report criticizing San Mateo County's criminal justice system, a consultant hired to evaluate a program aimed at reducing recidivism among released inmates stated that its contract was terminated when it sought information that could have downplayed the need for a new jail.
The draft report was released Friday by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning, a Berkeley-based policy and research organization county officials hired in April to evaluate Achieve 180 -- a federally funded program seeking to integrate prisoners back into the community.
According to institute director Alan Kalmanoff, his organization's evaluation was wrongly terminated "due to a fear of confronting the real issues that plague the local justice system."
The draft report alleges that San Mateo County ended its contract with ILPP when the agency requested information about the flow of offenders into the jail.
"The county responded with warnings about 'widening' the evaluation, and subsequently terminated the evaluation," reads the report.
County Counsel John Beiers on Friday said ILPP was hired to look at Achieve 180 but then "wanted to evaluate our pretrial program and the need to build a jail."
"They clearly came in with their own agenda, which took us several weeks to realize," Beiers said. "They wanted to do something much broader than what they were asked to do. I think they were being disingenuous."
In an interview Friday, Kalmanoff said the draft report speaks for itself.
The county has been moving forward with plans to build a new $160 million jail in Redwood City to alleviate overcrowding at existing facilities, something that Kalmanoff believes the Achieve 180 program can do if implemented correctly.
"It has an enormous potential to reduce recidivism," Kalmanoff said. "In Pennsylvania, it cut it in half."
Among the report's recommendations are eliminating the Achieve 180 program because it is a "poorly operated program that offers little to the system, has limited political support, is targeted at a very limited population and is not cost effective."
It states that to work, "it requires existing justice system agencies to operate differently and for traditions to change."
The report also suggests that the county move to a supervised release program for offenders awaiting trial, increase use of alternatives to incarceration such as electronic monitoring, and switch to a web-based case management system to make information more accessible to involved agencies.
Beiers said is was "disconcerting" to learn of the 133-page report.
"We asked them to give us what they had," he said. "It's kind of shocking that they would produce this after saying they didn't have enough data to do a report."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.