Report examines California’s Public Safety Realignment and crime rates

The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a report on the state’s Public Safety Realignment initiative and resulting crime rates, suggesting property crimes have increased since the legislation went into effect. The report not only sheds light on prison realignment, but illustrates the importance of offender reentry programs.

According to the report, property crime—defined as vehicle theft, larceny and burglary—has risen 7.6 percent, an increase higher than states with comparable trends prior to realignment. In particular, auto theft increased 14.8 percent since realignment, which translates to about 24,000 more auto thefts per year. However, there is no indication that the policy shift impacted violent crimes, including rape and murder.

AB 109, a.k.a. California’s Public Safety Realignment, went into effect in Oct. 2011 as a solution to a federal court order that the state reduce prison overcrowding. Under the legislation, lower-level felony offenders are sentenced to county jails or are put under supervision rather than sent to prison. According to the PPIC report, the state was able to reduce its prison populations by 27,000, with county jails absorbing many of the inmates. However, about 18,000 offenders who would have been in prison or jail prior to the policy shift are instead now on parole or probation.

In response to the findings, California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Executive Director Matt Cate issued the following comment (his full statement can be read at the link):

“This is really interesting work by the PPIC… We’ve known for a long time that incarceration is very expensive, and for a lot of offenders it doesn’t effectively prevent criminal behavior in the long run. Under AB 109, counties are using evidence-based programs that help individual offenders with basic housing needs, drug or alcohol treatment, and employment services. We know these programs help offenders, but often the individuals’ needs are great – especially with respect to behavioral health issues – and it take times to develop local service capacity. California Counties can be extremely effective at delivering these programs and services to more and more offenders with generally very positive results.”

GEO Reentry Services, a part of GEO Community Services, has been working with counties and correctional agencies in California since the legislation took effect to provide successful evidence-based reentry programs for offenders who have been placed under community supervision.

The programs are geared toward helping offenders get their lives back on track while emphasizing personal accountability through intensive day reporting programs and classes that address substance abuse, anger management, employment and educational issues. This approach helps to reduce recidivism and saves taxpayer money through lower incarceration costs.  Learn more here.