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Inmates at Chino State Prison walk past their bunk beds in a gymnasium that was modified to house prisoners in Chino, California
After a federal court ordered California to reduce its prison population, the state enacted “realignment.” The law shifted responsibility for tens of thousands of felons to counties. Now, two years after implementation, a new study gives the massive policy change mixed reviews.
The report from the Stanford Criminal Justice Center includes interviews with 125 representatives from 21 counties, covering every aspect of the criminal justice system, including police, judges and offenders themselves. Surprisingly, most are cautiously optimistic about the changes to the criminal justice system, but concerns, especially among prosecutors, remain.
The consensus was “this happened too fast, the infrastructure was not ready, and we went too far. We need to pull back a little bit,” said Stanford Law School professor Joan Petersilia, who authored the report. According to the findings, over 100,000 felons have been switched over to counties for punishment and probation since October 2011.
Experts say it’s too soon to link realignment rises in crime rates, but police believe property crime rates are up because realignment puts more convicted offenders on the streets quicker.
While realignment may have helped the overcrowding of state prisons, it may create new problems for the county’s jails, which weren’t designed for long-term stays. What recommendations does the report make? Are they in conflict with the demands of federal judges to reduce overcrowding in prisons?
Joan Petersilia, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School and author of the study “Voices from the Field: How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment
Kim Raney, Chief of Police, City of Covina; President of the California Police Chiefs Association