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Does Prison Reform Lead to an Increase in Crime?

Ever since California voters passed Proposition 47 into law in 2014, law enforcement and others have been quick to blame the new law for leading to an increase in criminal activity.Gen-32-300x200.jpg

The same claims have been made of the 2011 Public Safety Realignment Act (PSRA), which shifted the responsibility for treatment of lower level, non-violent felons from the state to each county. While there have been no meaningful studies to show whether Proposition 47 caused an increase in crime, a new study by the University of California, Irvine, appears to show that the PSRA has not resulted in an increase in crime.1

The Overhaul of California’s Prisons

In 2011, the United States Supreme Court declared California’s prison system to be constitutionally flawed.2 Overcrowding represented a significant problem in maintaining the physical and mental health of the state’s prison population, which not only was viewed as cruel and unusual punishment, but also as a hindrance to the effective rehabilitation of prisoners. As an example of these conditions, Justice Kennedy noted in the majority’s opinion that as many as 200 prisoners had lived in a gym and as many as 54 prisoners had shared a single toilet. The court ordered California to reform its prison system.

Jail-Bars-and-Cuffs-300x225.jpgCalifornia’s answer was the PSRA, which transferred 33,000 state prisoners into the custody of individual counties. In many cases, counties determined the appropriate treatment was to parole these inmates.

The Myth of Prison Realignment Increasing Crime

Law enforcement agencies were convinced that the sudden release of so many incarcerated persons would lead to a crime wave, but the UCI study shows that the true impact on the crime rate has been negligible. “We’ve seen no appreciable uptick in assaults, rapes or murders that can be connected to the prisoners who were released under realignment,” said Charis Kubrin, a UCI professor of criminology who co-authored the study. “This is not surprising, of course, because these offenders were eligible for release precisely because of the nonviolent nature of their crimes.”

Interestingly, some counties have actually seen decreases in crime as a result of finding innovative ways to approach the realignment. By spending realignment funds on rehabilitation programs designed to help inmates reenter society, the UCI study found that Alameda County saw a 3.7% decrease in arrests of previous offenders when compared to counties that spend the funds on more law enforcement, such as San Bernardino County.

Call a Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away

Despite the encouraging news that prison realignment has not increased crime, there is still always the possibility that a recently released inmate may be accused of a crime. If this happens to you, it is vital to your freedom that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled team of attorneys has more than 30 years experience successfully helping clients facing criminal charges, and we work tirelessly to help our clients reduce the impact of their prior criminal history on their lives. Let our knowledgeable attorneys help you, too.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney experienced in California criminal defense near you no matter where you work or live.

Contact our offices today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

1.University of California, Irvine. (2016, February 19). No increase in major crimes after state’s 2011 prisoner release. Science Daily. Retrieved March 6, 2016 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160219093324.htm href=”#ref1″>↩
2.Brown v. Plata, 563 US 493 (2011) href=”#ref2″>↩

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.