One Year In, Too Soon to Evaluate Prison Realignment

Oct 8, 2012

Credit Casey Christie / The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

It’s been one year since Governor Jerry Brown shifted responsibility for low-level offenders in California from the state to counties.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, experts say it’s too soon to truly assess the impact of the governor’s “realignment” program.

Realignment has drawn praise from some quarters for reducing prison overcrowding and the use of social programs for rehabilitation.  And it’s drawn anger from others who point to offenders freed under realignment committing new crimes.  But Magnus Lofstrom with the Public Policy Institute of California warns against drawing any conclusions:

Magnus Lofstrom: “It’s too early – we don’t have those numbers yet.”

Ben Adler: “So we’re kind of left with anecdotal evidence of, perhaps, it working and anecdotal evidence of it not working.”

Magnus Lofstrom: “That’s right.  And we should probably use adequate scrutiny in using that information for assessing the success or failure of realignment.” 

  Especially because it’s hard to say what realignment could be compared to.  California faces a U.S. Supreme Court ruling forcing it to reduce its prison population.  Without realignment, the state would have had to do something else instead.