California’s Public Safety Realignment Act helped the state in drastically reducing its prison population without skyrocketing crime as critics had thought, according to a new study by three crime professors.
The Public Safety Realignment Act sought to reduce prison population by sending parole violators and inmates convicted of non-serious and nonviolent crimes to county jails instead of state prisons. It also stated that parole violators could be held for a maximum of 180 days.
When the Realignment Act was introduced in 2011, critics warned that it would cause a spike in crime in the state. In 2012, the state senate Republican caucus also raised concern, arguing that the act could boost crime.
In 2013, the then Glendale police chief Ronald De Pompa called the Realignment Act ‘dangerous public policy’ that would increase crimes by early inmate release. Pompa also warned that it would eventually pave way for new crime trends and sprees.
But the new study suggested that all those fears were ill-founded.
In 2011, the Supreme Court directed California to reduce its prison population to 137.5 per cent of its prisons’ capacity. At the time, some prisons in the state held 300 per cent of their capacity. During the first 15 months of the Realignment Act’s implementation, the state released nearly 30,000 inmates.
The study found that the law in question had no effect on violent or property crime rates in three years starting 2012. Auto theft rates dropped to pre-realignment rates by the year of 2014. Previously in 2013, a study by Magnus Lofstrom and Steven Raphael found no evidence that realignment resulted in rise in murder or rape rates. However, that study warned that robbery and property crime rates were likely affected.
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