The Stanford Criminal Justice Center has received grants totaling $650,000 to support its research on the impact of Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison reduction plan. The plan, known as realignment, shifts authority for low-level offenders from the state prison system to county officials.
“The SCJC is well-known for its important work on criminal justice policy at all levels of governments,” said Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill in a website post. “In recent years, research from the SCJC has provided invaluable help to public officials who are struggling with difficult criminal justice issues in the state of California. These grants will allow the center to continue that work, which is critical to the future of the state.”
Grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Public Welfare Foundation.
The center has been at the forefront of studying both the implementation of California’s Public Safety Realignment Act as well as the parole release process for individuals serving life sentences with the possibility of parole in California.
SCJC researchers expect to share findings with key policymakers later this year.
The SCJC website cites four research projects:
Analysis of 58 County Approaches to Realignment: Center researchers are collecting data and analyzing the different approaches that California’s 58 counties have taken in implementing Realignment.
County Case Studies: SCJC researchers are interviewing key criminal justice officials (prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, sheriffs, probation officers) within a small sampling of counties to study their implementation of Realignment. The counties comprise a representative model of the state, which include Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Solano, and San Joaquin.
Statewide Judges and Prosecutors Discretion Study: Using approaches from the fields of criminology, law, and economics and the development of hypothetical survey instruments, SCJC researchers are polling prosecutors and judges across California to determine how their decisions on charges and sentencing have changed post-Realignment.
Front-end Effects and Best Practices: The SCJC research team is studying the impact of Realignment on the front-end of the criminal justice system through the convening of executive sessions, development of white papers, and writing of a report that synthesizes the major issues created by Realignment. Furthermore, the goal is to identify policy recommendations, and highlights best practices among California’s 58 counties to address those issues.
“… Realignment represents the biggest change in sentencing and corrections in the last six decades”
“California has the largest prison system in the country,” said Robert Weisberg, Edwin E. Huddleson Jr., professor of law and faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. “And California Realignment represents the biggest change in sentencing and corrections in the last six decades. Through our research, we want the data to tell us exactly what the effects are of shifting responsibility and discretion from the state to the county— how that impacts rates of incarceration versus probation supervision versus community programs, and so on. We want our research to help California get Realignment right.”
*Editor’s note: California is now the second largest prison system in the country. Texas recently surpassed California for the title of America’s largest prison system.