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September 7, 2007

Learning so much while in California

Once again, I have learned so much and gained many new insights from spending a day participating in one of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center's Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections.  To cap the day, I learned about a new California group, The Institute for the Advancement of Criminal Justice (IACJ), which says it "is dedicated to the improvement of public protection through criminal justice research and education for crime victims and their survivors, prosecutors, and local law enforcement."

Among interesting resources, the IACL has this new journal.  The title of the inaugural issue reveals the what seems to be the IACJ's perspective on various matters.  The title is "Debunking the Myths Attacking California’s Three Strikes Law and Demonstrating Its Effectiveness in Protecting the People of California."

September 7, 2007 at 08:41 PM | Permalink


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"How cost-effective are early-intervention crime-prevention programs compared with California’s three-strikes law that reduces crime by increasing prison sanctions?"

"Finally, full-scale implementation of those two early-intervention programs accomplish crime reductions that, if added together, equal that of the three-strikes law, at a total cost that is 80 percent less than the cost of the three-strikes program."

Posted by: George | Sep 7, 2007 11:36:08 PM

Prison trend costly Inmates enter state's cellblocks at rate well above average

State seeks options

One state that has looked hard for ways to put research into practice is Washington.

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy, funded by the state, has been asked by its legislature for options for stabilizing its rising number of inmates. The institute is now looking at crime prevention and criminal intervention programs, as well as changes in sentencing.

The researchers still are working but thus far have found good results from drug treatment; drug courts; in-prison job training; intensive probation if the emphasis is on treatment; and a type of group therapy that targets irrational thoughts and beliefs that lead to anti-social behavior.

The institute also found that Washington's investment in prisons started very effective and then sagged, as the people locked up later proved less dangerous. The study found that the number of crimes avoided for every criminal imprisoned was 60 in 1980 but dropped steadily to 18 by 2001.

Posted by: George | Sep 7, 2007 11:49:24 PM


Summary of Findings. Our principal conclusion is
that, as of September 2004, some prevention and
early intervention programs for youth can give
taxpayers a good return on their dollar. That is,
there is credible evidence that certain wellimplemented
programs can achieve significantly
more benefits than costs. Taxpayers will be better
off if investments are made in these successful
research-based programs.

Posted by: George | Sep 7, 2007 11:52:23 PM

Drug Courts Decrease Criminal Recidivism

National Research
According to a study released by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in 2003 from a sample of 17,000 drug court graduates nationwide, within one year of program graduation, only 16.4 percent had been rearrested and charged with a felony offense (Roman, Townsend, & Bhati, 2003). A 2000 Vera Institute of Justice report concluded that “the body of literature on recidivism is now strong enough, despite lingering methodological weaknesses, to conclude that completing a drug court program reduces the likelihood of future arrest” (Fluellen & Trone, 2000).

Drug Courts Save Money

Statewide Research
A state taxpayer’s return on the upfront investment in drug courts is substantial. A study of six drug courts in Washington State reports that “a county’s investment in drug courts pays off through lower crime rates among participants and graduates” (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2003). The study estimates that the average drug court participant produces $6,779 in benefits that stem from the estimated 13 percent reductions in recidivism (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2003). Those benefits are made up of $3,759 in avoided criminal justice system costs paid by taxpayers and $3,020 in avoided costs to victims (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2003). A total of $1.74 in benefits for every dollar spent on drug court was realized (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2003).

Posted by: George | Sep 7, 2007 11:54:15 PM

There is plenty more at Washington State's Institute for Public Policy.

It is evidence-based and non-political.

Criminal Justice

Evidence-Based Adult Corrections Programs: What Works and What Does Not

Here are some interesting findings from Sentences for Adult Felons in Washington: Options to Address Prison Overcrowding – Part II

• Being sentenced to prison does not reduce
recidivism of offenders and may increase it by
5 to 10 percentage points.
• However, once sentenced to prison, spending
more time in prison slightly reduces recidivism
for most offenders (by 1 to 3 percentage
points for each additional six months in
• Only a small percentage of offenders now
sentenced to prison are low risk.
• For those in prison, infraction history is a
predictor for future re-offending.

Posted by: George | Sep 8, 2007 12:19:38 AM

The right time to fight crime

Giuliani deserves credit for lowering the crime rate in NYC. But not all of it.

- Violent crime in New York began falling three years before Giuliani took office in 1994, U.S. Justice Department records show.

Property crime began falling four years before. The decline accelerated during his administration, but the "turnaround" he claims credit for started before him.

- New York was no anomaly, but was part of a trend that saw crime fall sharply nationwide in the 1990s, particularly in big cities. The city with the best record for reducing violent crime during this period? San Francisco.

- Independent studies generally have failed to link the tactics of the Giuliani administration with the large decrease in crime rates.

Wait, did that article say San Francisco? Why, yes it did. How could that be?

Analysis shows that California counties have radically different rates of sentencing under “Three Strikes”. The sentencing rate ranged from 0.3 per 1000 violent crime arrests in San Francisco, to 3.6 in both Sacramento and Los Angeles. Data revealed that the highest sentencing counties invoke the law at rates 3 to 12 times higher than the lowest counties.

Posted by: George | Sep 8, 2007 3:35:09 AM

Doug, your new friends look like an organization of prosecutors in the tired old business of advocating long (and ineffective) sentences, under the aegis of a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization. What is so interesting about that? Is that all you learned in California?

Posted by: abe | Sep 8, 2007 7:46:35 PM

The organization in question is indeed one of prosecutors, but there is nothing unusual about an organization representing one side being "a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization." Many defense-side organizations are as well.

California has had a sharper drop in crime than the average for the country in the period since it got tough on sentencing.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 9, 2007 4:29:57 PM

To clarify the previous comment, I do not claim that last statistic alone is proof of the effectiveness of tough sentencing in reducing crime. That argument is much longer than I can present here.

Much scholarship has gone into frantic efforts to demonstrate that the rise of crime after sentencing was slackened in the 60s and the drop after it was toughened in the 80s was just coincidence. In the end, even the anti-punishment crowd had to concede that a quarter of the crime drop was due to tougher sentencing. Other estimates are higher, but even if it was only a quarter, it was worth it.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 9, 2007 5:19:42 PM

Furthermore, in the year prior to the law's passage, California's population of paroled felons increased by 226 as felons from other states moved to California. In the year after the law's enactment, the number of paroled felons plunged as 1,335 moved out of California.

Governor Davis bragged about that in neighborly fashion.

Posted by: George | Sep 9, 2007 9:04:13 PM

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