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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Great Shift: Analyzing the Effect of Public Safety Realignment on Crime in California Between 2009-2013

  • Author(s): Malhotra, Urvashi
  • Advisor(s): Lerman, Amy
  • Bimes, Terri
  • et al.

In 2011, the United States Supreme Court mandated California to reduce its severely overcrowded prison population. In an effort known as Public Safety Realignment, Assembly Bills 109 and 117 shifted the responsibility to house individuals convicted of non-serious, nonviolent, and non-sex felony offenses from state prisons and parole to local jails and probation in each of the 58 California counties. Using a multivariate regression model controlling for county-specific population factors, this thesis examines the extent to which Public Safety Realignment has impacted crime in California, both at the state and county levels. Additionally, through in-depth interviews of county officials, examples of “best practices” for accommodating realigned prisoners while keeping crime low are determined. The results of this study indicate significant changes in both FBI Part I violent crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and FBI Part I nonviolent property crimes (motor vehicle theft, larceny, arson, and burglary) in some counties, but not at the state-level. Based on the results of interviews of select county officials, counties that responded to Realignment by implementing or expanding evidence-based programs to prevent crime, target offenders’ criminogenic tendencies, and improve re-entry outcomes were generally able to keep instances of both violent and nonviolent crime fairly stable. This study suggests that with the right practices and priorities, shifting the responsibility to house offenders from the state to the county level can be done without significantly compromising public safety, making California a role model for other states with overcrowded prison populations.

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