Now that the effects of California’s historic AB 109 legislation are starting to be measured and examined, a respected authority on the matter—Stanford law professor Joan Petersilia—has contributed her thoughts on the necessary adjustments to the state’s prison realignment plan.
AB 109, legislation that shifted the responsibility of tens of thousands of state prisoners to California’s 58 counties, was implemented in 2011. 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.
In an article for the Harvard Law and Policy Review, Petersilia, the co-director of The Stanford Criminal Justice Center, examined the varied results of the legislation and suggested several ways in which it could be improved.
According to a release distributed by Stanford University, those suggestions are:
- Requiring that all felony sentences served in county jail be split between time behind bars and time under supervised release (probation), unless a judge deems otherwise
- Allowing an offender’s entire criminal background to be reviewed when deciding whether the county or state should supervise them
- Capping county jail sentences at a maximum of three years
- Allowing for certain violations, such as those involving domestic restraining orders or sex offenses, to be punished with state prison sentences
- Creating a statewide tracking system for all offenders
- Collecting data at the county and local level on what is and is not working in realignment
Since the inception of AB 109, GEO Reentry has worked with counties across California and currently works with more than a dozen correctional agencies across the state to provide evidence-based reentry programming.
GEO Reentry-run programs include day reporting, 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.