Has CA Prison Realignment Increased Crime, Or Is It Too Soon to Tell?


Critics of California’s year-old law shifting responsibility for thousands of felons to counties point to the brutal beating of a San Joaquin County woman, allegedly by a man released from jail just days before the attack, as evidence the law is eroding public safety, says the Sacramento Bee. Experts say understanding the law’s effects will take more time and more information than a few headline-grabbing cases can provide. Parolee Raoul Leyva allegedly beat Brandy Arreola, then 20, into a coma. Shortly before the attack, he had been sentenced to jail for 100 days for violating the conditions of his parole. He was released in two days because of overcrowding. Before the new law, he would have been subject to prison time for the parole violation. “It’s diminishing public safety,” said Lynne Brown of Advocates for Public Safety, representing law enforcement officers who want to repeal the law.

Republican legislators who want to repeal the law say crime has increased in Sacramento, Stockton, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Determining the effect of a single policy on crime rates is difficult, said Joan Petersilia, co-director of the Stanford University Criminal Justice Center. Factors that influence crime rates range from the economy and the unemployment rate to family life, she said. Shrinking police forces in cities struggling with tight budgets might also have an effect, said Barry Krisberg of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley. There are factors besides the crime rate that demonstrate the effects of realignment, Petersilia said. Those include changes in arrest rates, prosecution rates, shifts in the jail population, whether or not victims think the new system is working, the impact of having more offenders in the community and the impact on community resources, including drug treatment programs and hospitals.

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