The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation—quoted in the last couple paragraphs of the excerpt—is right on target about the results so far of the plan, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
“One year after Gov. Jerry Brown‘s prison realignment program took effect, there is one thing everyone can agree on: California has a smaller prison population.
“But there is a broad difference of opinion about whether the plan, which handed California’s 58 counties responsibility for the incarceration and oversight of thousands of criminals, has made communities safer or reduced the number of criminals who re-offend, and there is no statewide data on those outcomes.
“California implemented realignment on Oct. 1, 2011, largely to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court order demanding that the state reduce the population of inmates in its overcrowded prisons. Today, the state has about 133,000 prison inmates, 27,000 fewer than it did a year ago.
“It’s on schedule, and it’s in practice in all 58 counties, which are quite diverse,” Brown said in a phone interview last week. “I think all in all, we made a solid transition, and thank God for the fact we had the realignment plan – or we would have been forced by judges to let felons out of prison or to build new cells, which we can ill afford.”
“But the diversity of the counties makes it nearly impossible to draw any conclusions about the plan’s statewide impacts. Under realignment, some county jails are filled to capacity and releasing inmates early due to overcrowding, while others handled the influx without issue.
“Critics of Brown’s plan point to individual crimes and spikes in crime rates in some communities as evidence that the policy change is making the public unsafe. Supporters say it is too soon to tell whether isolated incidents are indicative of a larger trend, and they argue that recidivism, not crime rates, will ultimately show the program’s success….
“In the Central Valley, Republican lawmakers and other opponents of realignment regularly highlight individual crimes as evidence of realignment’s failure. A recent case that was spotlighted was the fatal stabbing of a woman and injury of a police officer last month in Fresno. The suspect, Michael Crockell, was on probation after serving a prison term and being supervised by the county probation department. Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation – which advocates for reduced rights for the accused and convicted criminals – said that case, as well as anecdotal evidence that there has been an uptick in property crimes in several cities, proves the policy is on the path to failure.
“We’re not trying to make a statewide case yet, the numbers aren’t up, but when you see fires pop up all over the forest, you don’t wait a year to say the forest burned down,” Rushford said.”