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July 18, 2017

"How California Softened its 'Tough-on-Crime' Approach"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting and effective little "policy study" produced by the R Street Institute and authored by Steven Greenhut. Here is its introduction:

California has a long history of pioneering criminal-justice reforms.  From the 1960s to the early 2000s, such reforms mostly toughened the state’s approach to handling criminals, with some of the most significant policy reforms implemented at the ballot box.  California’s past approaches — especially its “three-strikes” law — have become models for other states, although such policies have led to some troubling results.

More recently, as overall crime rates have fallen to levels not seen since the 1960s, the state has led the way both to soften those earlier approaches and to implement innovative policies that reduce sentences for some offenders. This shift has been driven in part by a prison-overcrowding crisis, but public sentiment has also changed over the years.

Given the high costs — both financially and in terms of civil liberties — the state’s incarceration-heavy approach imposed, these changing policies and attitudes are a welcome development.  Many of the tough-on-crime approaches of the past were driven by the state’s powerful law-enforcement lobby and “public safety” unions, who appeared at times more interested in protecting their budgets (and creating new “customers”) than promoting justice.

Not every new proposal is ideal, of course, and California has yet to embrace the kind of wide-ranging reforms in its corrections bureaucracy that have been implemented by Texas, for instance.  The state also has failed to implement significant reforms to its public-employee pension system and has moved away from outsourcing — measures that could help stretch California’s budget, which is burdened by the highest cost in the nation (total and per capita) for running its prison system.  Notwithstanding such costs, California still has an astoundingly high recidivism rate of approximately 65 percent.

This paper seeks to place these shifts in historical context. It examines a few of the most significant reform policies that have passed through the Legislature or been put to voters through the state’s robust initiative process.  As California goes, so goes the nation.  As such, it is worth seeing where the state is headed on this significant issue.

July 18, 2017 at 06:58 PM | Permalink


For today's weak on crime edition:


He'll serve 12, and be out when he's 27. Why should society take that risk?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 18, 2017 9:34:45 PM

California has more violent crime than the nation. It has triple the crime rate per square mile. Decarceration will result in surges in crime out of proportion to the decarceration rate.

Only a fool would rob a bank today. The haul in internet crime is larger. The risk is nil, thanks to the criminal protecting lawyer profession. The author did not count internet crimes. Their number now matches the FBI Index felony count, around 15 million.

The article is an insult to the intelligence. Prof. Berman must stop posting articles that do not count internet crime, in their false claims of a low crime rate. Each nets $5000.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 19, 2017 1:40:12 AM

Tiny decarceration in California has resulted in substantial increases in violent crime in California in the 2010's. The reason for historically low rates of crime is the high incarceration rate.

A diabetic has historic lows in rates of blood sugar elevation. This is due to steady use of insulin. Let's stop the insulin because the sugar elevations are at historic lows.

Diabetes is a chronic condition. Is crime a chronic condition?

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 19, 2017 9:03:05 AM

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