Journal: California reform measures did not affect crime rate

A large-scale study by researchers from major California universities found the state’s prison downsizing efforts have had little to no impact on the crime rate. The findings were published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science this month.

UC-Irvine Professor Charis Kubrin, a criminologist who guest edited the issue along with UCI colleague Carroll Seron, said the work presents the most comprehensive investigation into the impacts of 2011’s prison realignment (aka AB 109) to date – and answers the biggest question the reform raised: is the state more dangerous after realignment?

In short, the authors say no, crime rates in California have not risen.

Implemented in 2011, AB 109 legislation shifted the responsibility of tens of thousands of state prisoners to California’s 58 counties. The legislation was created in response to a Supreme Court order to reduce the state’s prison population with the goal of reducing recidivism—California’s prisons had long had issues with overcrowding.

Researchers from the PPIC also found little impact on offender recidivism, though they did notice a difference between counties that invested in rehabilitation services and those who primarily invested in law enforcement, with those investing in rehabilitation achieving better outcomes.

Since the inception of AB 109, GEO Reentry has worked with counties across California and currently works with more than a dozen correctional agencies statewide to provide evidence-based reentry programming. GEO Reentry-run programs include in-custody treatment, residential housing, and day reporting program that provide behavioral therapy and life skills classes that combine to change criminal behavior and empower participants to become productive members of their communities.

Reentry programs operate as alternative to detention programs, and in counties where they are implemented provide an opportunity for qualified offenders to undergo intensive supervision rather than serve time in the county jail. The programs are designed to save taxpayer money while reducing recidivism.

The study was done in conjunction with the Public Policy Institute of California and UC-Berkeley, among others. Much of the research presented in the journal was funded by the National Science Foundation.