On the eve of realignment’s third anniversary, the law (AB 109) has no requirement to support local officials with the collection of data or an assessment of what correctional methods are most effective.
A report on realignment published by Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) said that a data-driven approach for corrections officials that would demonstrate what works have been overlooked.
“A central principle of AB 109 is that counties should have a strong hand in designing their own approach to managing offenders who are now under their purview,” PPIC said.
But AB 109 legislation did not dedicate funds for counties to evaluate the rising effects of realignment after its implementation. In addition, there is no designation of funding for counties to “assess the success rates of their local correctional strategies.”
“…The long-term stability and sustainability of California’s criminal justice system depends not on the success of a few counties, but on the broad statewide adoption of successful correctional strategies that promote public safety and reduce reliance on California’s overextended prison system,” PPIC said.
“A large and increasing portion of the felony population will never reach state prison”
“Based on our work with the 11 counties, we establish data collection priorities that will enable counties to implement evidence-based practices,” PPIC noted.
PPIC illustrated how collecting and using data can assist counties to “identify effective and efficient programs” and how to “hold service providers more accountable,” among other benefits.
According to PPIC, a limited number of strategies have been researched and their application in California’s jail populations “remains untested.”
PPIC said, “If the state as a whole is going to move in this direction, then each county must not only be technologically capable of carrying out its own data-driven strategies but must also be able to contribute to the state’s understanding of what works.”
PPIC reported that some problems pre-date the reforms under realignment, and the lack of funding has made “the shortcomings of existing data collection efforts even more pronounced.”
“We envision a system with a level of standardization that allows the state to capitalize on the experiences of various counties,” PPIC said.
Among the relevant data that needs to be gathered are offender “risks and needs assessments” on each individual. This information, the report said, will help local corrections officials “gauge whether an individual will reoffend.”
“A large and increasing portion of the felony population will never reach state prison. Those populations are ‘off the radar’ of state tracking systems and their information is not available to be shared for either law enforcement or research purposes,” PPIC reported.
PPIC’s report concluded by making several recommendations for improving the quality of data used, and to make it available while ensuring the data captured is pertinent, connected across various systems and uses a standard to define key measures. It also recommends upgrading the technological systems now in use to make it easier to extract, collect and share data.
PPIC cited a Huffington Post article that characterized AB 109 as “the biggest penal experiment in modern history.”