California’s 2011 Realignment plan reduced the state’s prison population, increased county jail population and had a modest impact on recidivism, according to a study seven years later.
“One goal of Realignment was to reduce California’s persistently high recidivism rates,” the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report states. “Overall, we find Realignment had modest effects on recidivism, with considerable variation across offender groups and counties.”
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
The report titled “Realignment and Recidivism” in California was published in December 2017. It found 71.9 percent of inmates released to Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) after the passing of Assembly Bill 109, Public Safety Realignment, have a slightly higher rate of recidivism than those released before AB 109.
25% drop in state prison incarceration
10% drop statewide average in county jail populations
22% drop in felony filings
California still spends a combined $20 billion in state prisons and county jails, according to “SAFE AND SOUND: STRATEGIES TO SAVE A BILLION IN PRISON COSTS AND BUILD NEW SAFETY SOLUTIONS” by Californians For Safety and Justice Nov. 2017
According to the report, PRCS offenders were rearrested 2.6 percentage points higher than those released before Realignment, and 56.4 percent were reconvicted. The new convictions were 2.4 points higher than pre-Realignment releases.
Among other facts, the PPIC found Realignment created two types of offenders under California Penal Code § 1170(h): “Those who receive both jail time and probation supervision,” called a “split” sentence, and “those who receive jail time with no supervision,” a “straight” sentence.
“Public safety Realignment marked a new era for corrections and rehabilitation”
That Penal Code section refers to those sentenced for non-serious, non-violent, nonsexual felony offenses and served their sentences in county lockup. Before Realignment, those convicted of specific offenses defined in that section would have been sent to state prison if their sentences exceeded one year.
“The group serving ‘straight’ sentences had the best outcomes: the same two-year re-arrest rates and lower two-year reconviction rates (by 3.0 percentage points),” the report said. “Those who received ‘split’ sentences had higher rates of rearrest (by 7.8 points) but lower rates of reconviction (by 3.4 points) compared with similar individuals before Realignment.”
The report said Realignment didn’t have a steady effect on recidivism for those sentenced under Penal Code § 1170(h). “We find that 74.5 percent of these individuals were rearrested (2.3 percentage points higher than their pre-Realignment counterparts) and 54.9 percent were re-convicted (2.0 points lower).”
PPIC found overall reconviction rates were higher for those on PRCS after Realignment. However, nine counties saw lower rates of reconviction. This was an indication that the overall finding is driven by a small number of counties, it was reported.
“Drug overdoses have now surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55.” THE NEW YORK TIMES Dec. 22, 2017
“Notably, offenders who received a jail term and no supervision stand out as having better outcomes on all measures of recidivism, when compared with similar individuals released before Realignment,” the report said.
Realignment is said to be “one of the most far-reaching criminal justice reforms in recent U.S. history,” PPIC reported. It has been referred to as “revolutionary and sudden,” “the most significant correctional reform in decades,” and “the biggest penal experiment in modern history.”
AB 109 was created after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prison system couldn’t effectively meet the demands of inmates’ healthcare because of severe overcrowding.
The court gave the state two options: increase the capacity of its prisons or reduce the prisoner population. California, however, was in the midst of a budget crisis and could not build its way out of the problem.
Instead, the state decided to “realign” low-level felony offenders from the state prison and parole system to county jail and probation systems.
“Realignment effectively reduced the state’s prison population by more than 27,000 in the first year of implementation,” the PPIC report said. “As expected, jail populations increased and, in many counties, jails reached or exceeded capacity.” The overall jail population increased by less than 9,000 inmates. “As a result, Realignment led to a reduction in both the prison population and overall incarceration levels.”
The report concluded that “Public safety Realignment marked a new era for corrections and rehabilitation—and raised questions about the reform’s effects on crime and recidivism.”