FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEINDIANAPOLIS — A paper published in the journal Criminology & Public Policy addresses one of the most important crime policy questions in America: Can prison populations be reduced without endangering the public?
That question was examined by researchers who tested the impact on public safety of California’s dramatic efforts to comply with court-mandated targets to reduce prison overcrowding
The results showed that California’s Realignment Act, passed in 2011, had no effect on aggregate violent or property crime rates in 2012, 2013 or 2014. When crime types were disaggregated, a moderately large, statistically significant association between realignment and auto theft rates was observed in 2012. By 2014, however, this effect had decayed, and auto theft rates returned to pre-realignment levels.
The paper, “Is Downsizing Prisons Dangerous? The Effect of California’s Realignment Act on Public Safety,” was authored by Jody Sundt, associate dean and associate professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Emily Salisbury, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Mark Harmon, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.
“The results provide evidence that large reductions in the size of the prison population can be made without endangering the overall safety of the public,” Sundt said. “Three years after the passage of the Realignment Act, California crime rates remained at levels comparable to what we would predict if the prison population had remained at 2010 levels.”
According to the paper, within 15 months of its passage, realignment reduced the total prison population by 27,527 inmates and saved $453 million.
Realignment substantially reduced the size of the prison population by shifting responsibility for certain groups of offenders to local jurisdictions.
The researchers found that with a mixture of jail use, community correction, law enforcement and other preventive efforts, California counties have provided a …