A few years ago, California passed a number of bills related to criminal justice reform. Due to prison overcrowding, and constitutional concerns, Governor Brown led the charge to reduce the bloated prison population. Propositions 36 and 47, which dealt with the punitive three-strikes law and over-sentencing of non-violent theft/drug crimes respectively, were passed with overwhelming majorities.
An older law, passed in 2011, also helped reverse the rapid increase of state inmates. “Realignment” put non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders in county jail rather than state prisons. Instead of being put into the care of parole, these non-violent inmates were placed into the custody of county-based probation programs. This helped the overloaded parole board. Also, violations resulted in county jail terms, rather than prison terms.
Now, the San Diego Tribune is reporting that Realignment does not harm safety. Since Realignment, crime has remained relatively low. Both in 2013 and 2014, crime rates dropped. Property and violent crimes are now at historic lows. Some experts believe that it is too early to make judgments, but overall, the data shows a trend downwards in violent crimes.
Reduction in crime rates is not exclusive to Los Angeles or California. Throughout the United States, crime has been down. The FBI data shows crime rates at 1960 levels. All of this is good news for those who advocate for criminal justice reform. Reducing prison populations will save money, combat recidivism, and put convicts in a position where they can re-assimilate.
Communities have been damaged enough from aggressive policies of over-incarceration. Let’s hope that the data continues to reflect the benefits of changing how we, as a state, handle crime.