Stanford to research effects of California’s Prison Realignment (AB 109)

The Stanford Criminal Justice Center was awarded $650,000 to research the implementation and impact of California’s Public Safety Realignment legislation — which went into effect one year ago this month, and transfers authority for convicted felons from the state prison and parole system to local counties. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, the James Irvine Foundation and the Public Welfare Foundation are funding the research.

The grants support four related research projects, which will enable researchers to assess the effects of California’s effort to downsize state prisons through the Public Safety Realignment legislation and to make recommendations for reforming the front-end of the system (such as re-entry). In a statement related to the award to Stanford, Joan Petersilia, faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, said:

“Realignment puts the onus back on counties to make decisions about how they wish to punish their local convicted offenders. Counties can decide to expand jail capacity. They can expand drug treatment programs or mental health courts. They can hire new staff. They can expand the ranks of probation officers or sheriff’s deputies. We want to know what approaches are working best in California counties and why.”

Researchers expect to share findings this summer and fall with key policymakers, including the Board of State and Community Corrections, the California State Legislature, the California Attorney General, and the Governor. Findings will also be shared with stakeholder groups and agencies such as the Chief Probation Officers of California, the Partnership for Community Excellence, and the California Association of Counties.

The four research projects are:

  • Analysis of 58 County Approaches to Realignment: Researchers are collecting data and analyzing the different approaches that California’s 58 counties have taken for Realignment.
  • County Case Studies: Researchers are interviewing several counties to see how they have dealt with Realignment, including several that work with BI for reentry or electronic monitoring solutions.
  • Statewide Judges and Prosecutors Discretion Study: Researcher will poll prosecutors and judges to see how their decisions on charges and sentencing have changed post-Realignment.
  • Front-end Effects and Best Practices: Researchers are studying the impact of Realignment on the front-end of the criminal justice system; they will identify policy recommendations and highlight best practices too.