California’s prison population reduced during first nine months of realignment

In 2011, the California state legislature passed Assembly Bill (AB) 109, commonly referred to as “Realignment.”  Realignment was designed to make fundamental changes to the California prison system by shifting non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders from incarceration in state prison to the supervision of local counties. According to recent data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)’s Data Analysis Unit, within the first nine months of realignment, CDCR has already progressed two-thirds of the way toward the goal of reducing inmate populations by 40,000 by 2017.

New figures released by the CDCR show that during the final two quarters of 2011 and the first two quarters of 2012, there has been a 39% overall reduction in new prison admissions as of June 30, 2012, and a drop of 26,480 in the prison population as of August 8, 2012, compared to October 1, 2011.

While the reduction numbers are formidable and represent a positive change in how the prison system is working under realignment, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in a research brief notes concerns that the initially steep reductions may be almost over, and that further prison population cuts may be harder to achieve. Additionally, the second quarter of 2012 brought a 3% increase in new admissions.  But even with this, California’s prison population fell by 4,002 from March 31 to June 30, 2012, even as new felon admissions increased.

Overall, realignment appears to be doing what it was designed to do at a broad level. During the first nine months following implementation, the percent of new admissions of non-violent offenders, including parole violators, and drug and property crimes, declined by more than 50%. Female admissions declined 62%, and male admissions declined 36%. When numbers were analyzed further at the county level, though, results varied.

From the data, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice concluded that work still needs to be done and further reductions may be difficult to achieve, but acknowledge that prison population reductions were much more rapid than predicted.

BI Incorporated has collaborated with many counties – large and small – to implement a number of solutions for AB 109. These solutions include electronic monitoring programs, day reporting center programs that include cognitive behavioral therapy and additional training, such as employment programs, and other tactics to reduce pressure on county jails.

The CDCR report “Characteristics of Felon New Admissions and Parole Violators Returned with a New Term: July-September 2011; October-December 2011; January-March 2012; April-June 2012 is available by request from CDCR.