Realignment and Re-entry

Like most states, California has never seriously invested in helping ex-offenders re-establish themselves in society after serving their time. To the contrary, ex-offenders are stigmatized in a variety of ways—barred from many forms of employment, unable to receive public benefits of various kinds, and effectively disenfranchised.Because California is now required by a federal court to significantly reduce state prison populations, this could be an opportunity for low-level offenders to be released into re-entry programs. Instead, under what is called “realignment,” many county sheriffs are seeking to keep low-level offenders locked up rather than assist in their successful re-entry. We need to fight for real re-entry support services if realignment is not to become just another form of warehousing.

Realignment 5 Years On: Counties Build Jails for Inmates With Mental Illness

Five years removed from one of the most sweeping criminal justice reforms ever implemented in the state, California’s 58 counties are still coming to grips with the effects of the plan known as Public Safety Realignment. Realignment aimed to satisfy a U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce the state prison population by some 30,000 inmates by transferring responsibility to counties for felons sentenced for non-serious, nonviolent or non-sex offenses. Today, at least 40 California counties have … [Read more...]

Crime Rates Not Affected by Realignment Releases

California drastically reduced its prison population, and crime didn't skyrocket the way critics thought it might ince 2011, California has taken radical steps to address its prison-overcrowding crisis by enacting a series of laws meant to reduce the state's prison population. California's plan, the centerpiece of which was the Public Safety Realignment Act in 2011, has been maligned by critics who believed the realignment would cause a spike in crime — or at least not deliver the promised … [Read more...]

Harnessing County Level Prop 47 Savings

Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act, passed by California voters in November 2014, effectively reduced the status of several low-level property and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. While Prop 47 mandates that state budget savings, resulting from a drop in prison populations, be transferred to a fund that supports mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, school truancy, drop-out prevention, and victim services; there is no mandate that Prop 47 county … [Read more...]

Communities Not Jails

Where we spend our money says a lot about our priorities. That’s why California’s legislature must reject the governor’s plan to spend $250 million more taxpayer dollars to build new jails. Since 2007 alone, the state has spent $2.2 billion on jail construction. That’s quite enough — especially when we know that investing more in prevention and treatment is far more affordable and effective at breaking the cycle of incarceration. The quarter of a billion dollars proposed in this year’s budget … [Read more...]

Prop 47 Savings Belong to Communities

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget released today includes the current Department of Finance estimate of savings resulting from Proposition 47. This first estimate puts FY 2015-16 savings at just $29.3 million, far below all previous estimates and despite a clearly established reduction in state incarceration of people for low-level offenses in 2015 over previous years. The estimate announced today reflects a largely political choice to calculate savings in a way that keeps taxpayer … [Read more...]

The Worrying Rise of Automated Parole

America’s mass incarceration problem is often described as a crisis, something that may actually have caused more crime than it’s prevented. In 1980, some five hundred thousand Americans were in prison or jail; by 2013, the number had surpassed 2.2 million. Less well known, though arguably no less important, is the country’s post-incarceration crisis, with more than 4.7 million Americans living on probation or parole in 2013, a nearly four hundred percent increase over the number in 1980. This … [Read more...]

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2015

Wait, does the United States have 1.4 million or more than 2 million people in prison? And do the 636,000 people released every year include the people getting out of local jails? Frustrating questions like these abound because our systems of federal, state, local, and other types of confinement — and the data collectors that keep track of them — are so fragmented. There is a lot of interesting and valuable research out there, but varying definitions and other incompatibilities make it hard — … [Read more...]

Briefing for Faith Leaders on LA Criminal Justice Challenges

ith almost 19,000 persons behind bars, the LA County jail system is the largest local jail system in the country; it is also a system marked by decades of documented abuse in the form of deputy-on-inmate brutality and violence—even gang activity by groups of deputies—to the point that the U.S. Dept. of Justice is requiring the County to enter into a consent decree that addresses the treatment of persons with mental illness. The ACLU of Southern California has pursued an ongoing class action suit … [Read more...]

A Plan to Cut Costs and Crime: End Hurdle to Job After Prison

ames White had steeled himself for the moment. But when he got to the question on the job application — Have you ever been convicted of a crime? — he shifted nervously in his seat. If he checked the “yes” box, he would almost certainly not get the job as a hospital janitor. He checked the box. A moment later, a human resources employee looking over his shoulder told him not to bother with the rest of the form. “She said I should stop right there, that there was no need to continue … [Read more...]

Women Overlooked in California Prisoner Realignment Program

alifornia is in the midst of reducing its state prison inmate population to no more than 137.5 percent of capacity, the first step to address what was deemed inhumane overcrowded conditions. Much of the overcrowding in state prisons has been due to offenders violating conditions of their parole and automatically being sent back to prison. One of the programs undertaken has been transferring parole supervision of low level, non-violent, non-sex offenders to county probation departments. While … [Read more...]