California’s prison population this year fell below a court-mandated level to less than 37.5 percent overcrowded. The courts ruled, above that level, the state can’t provide adequate health care to the incarcerated.
A study from the Public Policy Institute of California finds the 2011 prison realignment nearly achieved the goal. The law shifted lower-level offenders from state prisons to county control.
At least, it did initially, according to study author Magnus Lofstrom.
"Realignment certainly reduced the prison population quite dramatically, by about 27,000 inmates in its first year, but we really didn’t see any appreciable decreases after that."
Proposition 47 changed that in November. It reduced nonviolent drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Since then, the number of inmates in state-run prisons has fallen below the required 117,000.
Critics worried the release of prisoners would cause a spike in crime. But, the study found crime increased in only one area: auto theft. Lofstrom says that's a crime with a high rate of recidivism.
"It’s likely that there are a number of offenders with this background who are not incarcerated as a result of realignment," says Lofstrom.
Recidivism on the whole did not drop, as some advocates for realignment predicted. Nor did costs decrease, according to the study.
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