California Prison Reforms Have Reduced Inmate Numbers, Not Costs

In 2012, under court order to reduce prison overcrowding, California announced an ambitious criminal justice reform plan that promised not only to meet the court mandate but also to improve criminal sentencing and “save billions of dollars.” Now, three years after implementing the changes, California has reduced its prison population by some 30,000 inmates, and the state is in the vanguard of a prison reform movement spreading across the country, with support from both the right and the … [Read more...]

New Reform: Same Old Reform

The most striking conclusion I draw from CJCJ Executive Director Dan Macallair’s forthcoming book, After the Doors Were Locked: A History of Youth Corrections in California and the Origins of Twenty-First Century Reform, is that over the last 150 years, even the most dramatic changes in society, crime, and research seem to bring few new ideas to the antiquated assumptions driving juvenile justice policy. Macallair meticulously details the 1800s origins of the San Francisco Industrial School, … [Read more...]

Separation by Bars and Miles: Visitation in State Prisons

Most of today’s prisons were built in an era when the public safety strategy was to “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.” But now that there is growing interest from policymakers and the public to help incarcerated people succeed after release, policymakers must revisit the reality of the prison experience and the false assumptions of that earlier era. Almost by definition, incarceration separates individuals from their families, but for decades this country has also placed unnecessary … [Read more...]

Why the Police Want Prison Reform

“We need less incarceration, not more, to keep all Americans safe.” Criminal justice reform groups have been saying this for years. This time the source is unexpected: More than 130 of the nation’s top law-enforcement officials, including big-city police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and attorneys general, have joined the call to end to the harsh, counterproductive practices and policies that have driven America’s devastating prison boom, destroyed communities and written off an entire … [Read more...]

Prison Reforms Yielding Neither Savings Nor Spike in Crime

Landmark changes in California's criminal justice system four years ago have not saved the state money or reduced the rate of convicts who are quickly back behind bars as proponents had promised, but the changes also did not produce a feared spike in violent crime, an independent research organization said Monday. About 18,000 offenders who previously would have been in prison or jail have been released since October 2011, the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California estimated in its … [Read more...]

Captive Market: Why We Won’t Get Prison Reform

The American prison system isn’t broken; it’s working exactly as designed. Seven million people may find their lives constrained, but according to the metrics that make America hum, their time served is also value added.   View image | t’s possible that Michael Dukakis didn’t understand the question. “If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered,” CNN anchor Bernard Shaw asked the Democratic candidate on live national television near the start of the second 1988 … [Read more...]

A Sentencing Commission for California

wenty years ago, California voters overwhelmingly passed the “three strikes” law that has come to symbolize America’s deeply irrational and misguided obsession with harsh and inflexible sentencing. It set a life sentence for anyone with a third felony conviction, no matter how minor or nonviolent — even for stealing a pair of socks. The law contributed to a dramatic increase in California’s prison population, which grew so far beyond capacity that in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that horrendous … [Read more...]

Governor Brown, California Legislature Squeezed on Criminal Justice Reforms

September is a pivotal time in California politics as state legislation must pass out of both houses of the legislature before the September 13 deadline and then Governor Brown has until October 13 by which he can sign or veto these bills. Both the legislature and Governor Brown are currently reviewing a wide range of juvenile and criminal justice policies that will have a long-term impact on the state. California continues to work through the implications of Realignment, and develop a safe … [Read more...]

Voters Want Prison-Reduction Reforms

California Voters Overwhelmingly Support Policy Changes that Reduce the Prison Population and Prison Spending Findings Offer Alternatives as Legislature Explores Options to Address Prison Crowding  August 28, 2013 — As the State Legislature begins to deliberate on options to immediately reduce prison crowding in California’s state prisons, Californians for Safety and Justice ( released findings from a survey of 1,600 California voters showing widespread support for various … [Read more...]