California reduced its state prison and county jail populations at historic rates since 2009 without any significant increase in crime. at least not until last year, says a new study reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. However, recently released inmates are still being arrested and convicted of new crimes at high levels, and the state is spending even more on prisons and jails than it did in the past, the Public Policy Institute of California reported. The institute examined the effect of new laws and policies put in place since 2009, when a federal court ordered California to reduce its prison population by 40,000 inmates to relieve overcrowding, which the court determined to be the main cause of woeful prison health care.
Since then, the number of inmates in prisons and jails, which had climbed for 30 years to a record high of nearly 256,000 in 2006, has dropped by 55,000. The incarceration rate fell from 702 per 100,000 residents to 515, the lowest level since the early 1990s. The prison population met the court-ordered target last year, although California achieved that goal by housing some of its inmates in private prisons in other states. Since 2009, the report said, “California has embarked on a path — unmatched by any other state — of reducing incarceration and reforming its correctional system.” Last year, violent crime in California rose by 8.4 percent, and property crime — which had hit a 50-year low in 2014 — went up by 6.6 percent. Crime rates remain “historically low” in California, and it’s too early to judge whether the 2015 rise was a one-year aberration, the institute said.