April 23, 2012
Depending on who you talk to, you will get very different views on the success or failure of California Realignement. Known as AB109, the Reform Act has reduced the number of California prisoners by more than 20,000 since its inception in October of 2011. By that definition, it clearly has achieved its intended goal of bringing down California’s prison population to limits set last year by the U.S. Supreme Court . The beds have been removed from prison gymnasiums (see photo on left). The issue being hotly debated across the state is the cost of doing so.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there has been a reduction in the number of persons who have recidivated in Los angeles County since AB109 began. “Before realignment, California had a 67 percent recidivism rate. That means almost seven out of every 10 people we let out came back to us (within a year).” Los angeles County now reports a 25 percent recidivism rate over the initial six month period – or about 50 percent when figured at an annual rate (as reported 3/28/2012).
On the other hand, the Sacramento-based, “Criminal Justice Legal Foundation” (CJLF) claims offenders who now qualify for local jail or treatment under AB109 are already being arrested for new felonies, including violent crimes. CJLF President Michael Rushford said these reports are just the beginning. “Just six months since the rollout of the new realignment law, it is already evident that California has become a more dangerous place for law-abiding people to live and work.(as reported, 4/21/12)
Clearly, there is no consensus as to how realignment is affecting public safety. And it is too early to reach any definitive conclusion. What we do know is that California is slowly reducing the number of non-violent offenders in our prisons and shifting their supervision to the counties (mostly probation). Some believe that except for the recession, Realignment would never have happened. But whatever the reason, it has reestablished community control and responsibility for the non-violent offender and opened a door to a plethora of community based alternatives to incarceration (as reported 12/20/11).