A recent study finds that the number of inmates released from state prison in California and returned to custody has declined since the implementation of Realignment (AB 109).
Three years after the program to send some parole violators and non-violent, non-serious offenders to local correction authorities, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) researched the effectiveness of Realignment to see if recidivism in the state had been reduced.
“Prior to the implementation of California’s 2011 public safety realignment (AB 109), the state’s prison system had one of the nation’s highest recidivism rates,” PPIC reported.
“Authorities frequently used parole revocations rather than new criminal prosecutions to return parolees arrested for technical parole violations,” PPIC reported.
The report said it did not see huge changes in the arrest or conviction rates of released offenders, which offers evidence that “offender behavior has not changed substantially.”
PPIC reported the law, post-Realignment, makes it difficult to return some released inmates to state prison.
“Recidivism is a fundamentally important
issue if we are to be smart on crime”
It was reported by PPIC that “Realignment has, as intended, led to a considerable 33 percentage point drop in the proportion of released inmates who are returned to state prison. This demonstrates that realignment has made substantial progress in one of its main goals: reducing the use of prison as a sanction for parole violations and minor criminal offenses.”
According to PPIC, the law (AB 109) has “ceased the flow of released inmates back to prison. As a result, prison and state parole populations have dropped dramatically.”
The report said that prior to Realignment many parole violators “would probably be in prison,” but they are “no longer behind bars.”
In contrast to these findings, PPIC found the number of offenders arrested multiple times increased by 7 percent. “These higher multiple arrest rates may reflect the substantial increase in the time released offenders spend on the streets – a result of counties’ limited jail capacity.”
PPIC reported that the reform now increases the “street time” of former prisoners.
According to PPIC, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported offender arrest and conviction rates “apparently declined in each month of the post-realignment period.”
“Prisoners released post-realignment are less likely to be like the pre-reform ‘frequent flyers’ who cycled in and out of prison on parole revocations,” PPIC reported.
According to the report, California’s high return to custody, its recidivism rate, was due in large part to parole violations. “Realignment has all but ended the state’s practice of returning parolees to prison via the parole board.”
Attorney General Kamala Harris, in a recent notice to the state’s sheriffs, police chiefs, probation departments, district attorneys and other stakeholders, stressed the need for the state to assess strategies to reduce recidivism. She outlined her proposed statewide definition of recidivism as an arrest resulting in a charge filed by a prosecutor within three years of an individual’s release from incarceration or placement on supervision for a previous criminal conviction.
“Universally defining recidivism is a fundamentally important issue if we are to be smart on crime,” Harris said.
The news release said Harris created a recidivism reduction pilot program in Los Angeles County called Back on Track LA. While working as San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris in 2005 started the reentry program, Back on Track, to reduce recidivism rates among low-level, non-violent drug offenders.
Among several of PPIC’s other findings:
The reduction of inmate rates of return to state custody within a year of offenders’ release declined slightly; and post-realignment conviction increased by 1.2 percent, most being higher felony conviction rates.
“These efforts are necessary to reducing recidivism and relieving pressures on state prisons and county jails – which will ultimately allow California to reach its federally mandated prison population threshold,” the report concluded.