Chipping Away at the Crime Wave Myth

The politicians and pundits, the academics and activists have argued for months over whether America is in the grip of a new crime wave. A few weeks ago, the FBI appeared to lay to rest the argument when it published its annual figures on crime reports to local police departments: the number of violent crimes reported was, indeed, up 3.9 percent last year, but was still near its lowest point in decades. A new report from another wing of the Justice Department, the Bureau of Justice … [Read more...]

Prop 47 Brings Arrests To 55+ Year Low

California saw its overall arrests plunge to a record-breaking low last year following the adoption of Proposition 47, a voter-approved initiative to reduce penalties for drug and property crimes, changing them from felonies to misdemeanors. According to CBS, California saw 52,000 fewer arrests overall in 2015 compared to the previous year – the lowest arrest rate in the state since 1960 when they began keeping arrest records. “I think it’s quite clear that Prop. 47 is the major contributor … [Read more...]

Prop. 47 Working? Depends Whom You Ask

The premise behind the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, or Proposition 47, overwhelmingly approved by California voters in November 2014, was simple: Reduce the penalties for nonserious, nonviolent offenses such as drug possession and minor theft and pass along the savings from less-crowded prisons and jails to programs that would reduce recidivism and crime and help victims. But nothing about Prop. 47 has been simple in the 21 months since then. As intended, the law has prevented … [Read more...]

Let’s Consider Leniency for Many ‘Violent’ Offenders Too

Ever since President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders last week, reformers have been calling for similar acts of leniency for other nonviolent drug offenders still behind bars. Obama himself used his clemency declaration to denounce mass incarceration and racial disparities in sentencing, focusing on over-punishment of drug offenders in particular. The White House's push for meaningful criminal justice reform is laudable and arguably unprecedented. But if … [Read more...]

Is It Possible to Let More People Out of Prison, and Keep Crime Down?

President Obama has made incarceration reform a White House theme this week. On Monday, he commuted the sentences of 46 mostly nonviolent drug offenders; and on Tuesday, he spoke about reducing the prison population in a speech to the NAACP. "The United States is home to 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's prisoners," Obama said. "Think about that. Our incarceration rate is four times higher than China's." And Thursday he'll become the first sitting president … [Read more...]

You Just Got Out of Prison. Now What?

Carlos and Roby are two ex-convicts with a simple mission: picking up inmates on the day they’re released from prison and guiding them through a changed world. wo men were sitting in a parked car, waiting to pick someone up. Carlos Cervantes was in the driver’s seat. He was 30, with glassy green eyes — quiet by nature, but with a loaded, restrained intensity about him. He had picked up Roby So at home in Los Angeles around 3 o’clock that morning, and they’d made it here, to this empty parking … [Read more...]

California’s Jail-Building Boom

What comes after mass incarceration? Local incarceration. Indio, California – In this desert city halfway between Los Angeles and the Arizona border, a small monument to the state’s prison downsizing experiment is materializing in a shopping center storefront, where former felons will soon have access to health screenings, substance-abuse treatment, job training, therapy, and probation officers who look and sound more like social workers than law enforcement officials. Less than a mile away, … [Read more...]

Violent Crime Drops Again in California

Homicides, robberies and overall violent crimes fell statewide in 2014 to levels not seen in decades, according to a Department of Justice report released Wednesday. The 1,697 killings last year were the fewest in California since 1971. At its bloody peak, in 1993, the state recorded 4,095 homicides. Robberies were at the lowest level in 43 years, with 48,650 reported in 2014. In 1992, there were more than 130,000 robberies. And overall violent crimes — murders, robberies, rapes and … [Read more...]