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PPIC: Crime up with realignment

Property theft in California increased in the first year of correctional realignment, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California highlighting the policy’s possible effect on future crime rates.

Under realignment, the state shifted responsibilities to the counties — including the incarceration of some state prisoners — and gave them money to cover the costs. The program, pushed by Gov. Brown,  has been hotly controversial since its inception two years ago.

Motor vehicle theft surged 14.8 percent between 2011 and 2012, or about 65 more auto thefts per year for every 100,000 residents. California’s increase in this category of crime far exceeds nationwide trends.

 Violent crime rates, according to the report, have remained steady, suggesting no realignment correlated increase.

“Realignment has brought enormous change to California, and it appears to have affected auto thefts, in particular,” said Magnus Lofstrom, a research fellow for the PPIC, which  conducted the study, which was released late Monday.”Nonetheless, despite recent increases, rates of property and violent crime remain at historically low levels in the state—substantially lower than they were a decade ago.”

The report, using monthly data published by the California Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center to document how crime trends aligned with the implementation of realignment, finds the new incarceration policy increased property crime for each realigned offender who is no longer detained by 1 to 1.5 per year.

Violent crime rates, according to the report, have remained steady, suggesting no realignment correlated increase.

But property crime was observed to have three-year peaks in October 2012 and December 2012 that are 15 and 8 percent higher, respectively, than in the same months in 2010.

All three forms of property crime making up the overall category—car theft, larceny, and burglary—are on the upswing.

But car theft is significantly more popular than the other crimes, increasing by more than 20 percent in each of the last few months of 2012 when compared to 2010 trends. The PPIC found increases in motor vehicle theft directly coincide with the implementation of realignment in October 2011.

When federal courts ordered California to reduce its overcrowded and pricey prison population, the state was facing a severe recession driven revenue decline. Policymakers’ answer was a 2011 piece of legislation, known as corrections realignment.

 Counties may choose whether to solely rely on their local jails to handle the new burden, or they may opt to utilize electronic monitoring, house arrest, very short jail stays, or a sentencing structure allowing an offender to serve a reduced jail term followed by probation, this is called “split-sentencing.”

With prison related expenditures already taking up 10 percent on the budget, building new prisons to bring down overcrowding would have been both unpopular politically and unwise fiscally.

Instead, the new policy would transfer many responsibilities for monitoring paroled inmates to counties and to house lower-level offenders in jails. In return, localities received more money from the state and could decide for themselves how to implement realignment.

Counties may choose whether to solely rely on their local jails to handle the new burden, or they may opt to utilize electronic monitoring, house arrest, very short jail stays, or a sentencing structure allowing an offender to serve a reduced jail term followed by probation, this is called “split-sentencing.”

Overall, realignment caused a reduction in California’s incarceration rate in prisons and jails combined, but prisons still house about 8,000 more prisoners more than the court-mandated level.

According to the report by the PPIC, the incarceration decrease is most notable when looking at parole violators, who in the past would have been in custody at the state prison level. Two out of three offenders are no longer spending that time behind bars, in prisons or jails, as a result of realignment.

In the policy’s first two years of implementation, prison incarceration rates have dropped to levels reminiscent of the early 1990s.

 California’s ten most populated counties generally saw the greatest increases in crime. Notable exceptions include Los Angeles County, where violent crime fell by 2.7 percent, and Fresno County, where it fell by 12.1 percent.

The prison inmate population has been reduced by roughly 27,000, while county jail populations throughout the state have increased by roughly 9,000 inmates.

“In other words, the number of former inmates on the streets has grown considerably since realignment began,” the report said.

California’s ten most populated counties generally saw the greatest increases in crime. Notable exceptions include Los Angeles County, where violent crime fell by 2.7 percent, and Fresno County, where it fell by 12.1 percent.

The impact on the number of offenders returning to the streets in any particular county varies and depends on how those counties relied on prisons in pre-realignment years. Those counties experiencing larger increases in property crime rates also had larger increases in the number of realigned offenders per capita.

 A cost-benefit analysis by the PPIC estimates one year of prison for a realigned offender would prevent, according to numbers provided by the RAND Corporation, $11,783 in auto theft crime-related costs.

The report also found incarceration prevented relatively fewer crimes, both property and violent, in high-incarceration counties, such as Kings and San Bernardino Counties, than compared to low-incarceration counties, such as San Francisco and Marin.

But results from the PPIC report suggest that if the state moved to meet the federally mandated cap of 110,000 prison inmates by lowering incarceration, rather than transferring to other facilities, property crime would go up between 7 and 12 percent greater than estimates for 2011-2012.

A cost-benefit analysis by the PPIC estimates one year of prison for a realigned offender would prevent, according to numbers provided by the RAND Corporation, $11,783 in auto theft crime-related costs. For every dollar the state spends on incarceration, the value of crimes being averted ranges between 23 and 48 cents.

In inevitable future battles with high incarceration rates, the PPIC found increased investment in policing and other alternative crime-reducing strategies would be a wiser course for the state. Research finds that each dollar invested into policing rather than prison incarceration generates a $1.60 in crime savings, or between 3.5 and 7 crimes would be prevented.

 


  • gimmemymoney

    Wow!!!! No one could have seen this coming.

  • impoundguy

    WOW what a surprise…you give early release to felons who have ‘no skills’ other then what put them into prison to begin with and your surprised when they use those skills to survive on the outside world…you sure don’t need a Rand Study to figure this one out folks.

  • Synchronized

    Increase policing leads to more arrests. So where are we going to house these felons? And with that kind of cost/benefit analysis, shouldn’t we just do away with prisons all together and let the communities bear the brunt of crimes? Less cost on the government.

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