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May 9, 2013

"Looking Past the Hype: 10 Questions Everyone Should Ask About California's Prison Realignment"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper on SSRN by Joan Petersilia and Jessica Snyder. Here is the abstract:

California’s Criminal Justice Realignment Act passed in 2011 shifted vast discretion for managing lower-level offenders from the state to the county, allocated over $2 billion in the first 2 years for local programs, and altered sentences for more than 100,000 offenders. Despite the fact that it is the biggest penal experiment in modern history, the state provided no funding to evaluate its overall effect on crime, incarceration, justice agencies, or recidivism.

We provide a framework for a comprehensive evaluation by raising 10 essential questions: (1) Have prison populations been reduced and care sufficiently improved to bring prison medical care up to a Constitutional standard? (2) What is the impact on victim rights and safety? (3) Will more offenders participate in treatment programs, and will recidivism be reduced? (4) Will there be equitable sentencing and treatment across counties? (5) What is the impact on jail crowding, conditions, and litigation? (6) What is the impact on police, prosecution, defense, and judges? (7) What is the impact on probation and parole? (8) What is the impact on crime rates and community life? (9) How much will realignment cost? Who pays? (10) Have we increased the number of people under criminal justice supervision?

May 9, 2013 at 11:40 PM | Permalink


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I got so excited, and happy. In item 2, the authors uttered the V word. Then I looked up the bio of the author. A PhD. Not a lawyer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 10, 2013 4:17:01 AM

(11) How do we repeal the single worst idea in the history of California criminal law? (That is saying a lot, as California has had some truly dreadful ideas.)

Fortunately, we have the initiative. Thank you, Hiram Johnson.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | May 10, 2013 12:49:43 PM

You mean three strikes, Kent? I thought it had already been repealed.

Initiatives are a disastrously bad way to govern. That's what got CA into federal court in the first place.

Besides just "repealing" realignment, what would you have the state do to comply with the federal court order?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | May 10, 2013 3:41:11 PM

Very impressive, grits, you managed to pack a lot of error into a concise post.

No, three strikes has not been repealed. It has been modified.

No, initiatives did not get California into federal court in the first place. Three strikes was a comparatively minor part of the picture.

As for initiatives, I have a variation on Winston Churchill's statement that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. Direct democracy is the worst form of democracy except for the other. The process has problems, to be sure, but the people of California have done far better, especially in criminal law, than those bozos under the copper dome.

California will not necessarily have to comply with the three-judge court's order. They are not complying with the concluding paragraphs of the Supreme Court's opinion and are likely to be reversed.

As to other alternatives, the initiative is not drafted yet. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | May 10, 2013 4:12:20 PM

Kent --

You should forgive Grits for thinking that Three Strikes was repealed. Admittedly, just about anyone who follows criminal law issues knows that's not true, but Grits has had some cognitive functioning difficulties since the Austin cops pulled weapons on him.


Posted by: Bill Otis | May 12, 2013 6:13:17 PM

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