Petersilia Suggests Adjustments In CA Prison Realignment Policies


California’s “realignment” shift of thousands of criminals from state prisons into county jails needs some adjustmens, says Stanford Law Prof. Joan Petersilia, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. “Only time will tell whether California’s realignment experiment will fundamentally serve as a springboard to change the nation’s overreliance on prisons,” she says in the Harvard Law and Policy Review. “It is an experiment the whole nation is watching.”

“If it works, California … will have shown that it can downsize prisons safely by transferring lower-level offenders from state prisons to county systems. … If it does not work, counties will have simply been overwhelmed with inmates, unable to fund and/or operate the programs those felons needed, resulting in rising crime, continued criminality and jail overcrowding,” wrote Petersilia. She urges legislative revisions to California’s plan. Among them: Requiring that all felony sentences served in county jail be split between time behind bars and time under supervised release (probation), unless a judge deems otherwise; allowing an offender’s entire criminal background to be reviewed when deciding whether the county or state should supervise them; capping county jail sentences at a maximum of three years; allowing for certain violations, such as those involving domestic restraining orders or sex offenses, to be punished with state prison sentences; creating a statewide tracking system for all offenders, and collecting data at the county and local level on what is and is not working in realignment

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